King Dick

On "Larry King Live," the hubris of Cheney takes center stage.


Tim Grieve
August 1, 2007 3:19PM (UTC)

CNN has posted the entire transcript of Larry King's interview with Dick Cheney, but pretty much everything you need to know about the vice president -- the certainty, the hubris, the "public opinion or even reality be damned" nature of the man -- is encapsulated in the first two questions and answers on the war in Iraq.

King: How do you deal with it when public opinion polls are stridently against the policy? We have Republican senators like Lugar and Hagel and Voinovich and Domenici questioning it. Do you ever, as an intelligent person, look in the mirror and say, "Maybe I'm wrong?"

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Cheney: Well, the way you have to operate in these jobs -- and the president obviously is the one who bears the greatest burden -- he's the one who makes the decisions. But I clearly support him. You have to do it on the basis of what you think is right and what's best for the country. The polls are notoriously unreliable in the sense that they change all the time and they bounce around all over the place. If you looked simply at public opinion, for example, a lot of the key decisions in our history would never have been pursued or followed through on. Washington never would have carried through for seven years of the Revolution. Abraham Lincoln would never have stayed with it in order to win the Civil War. We would have been two separate nations by then. You can look at major moments in our history and be thankful that we had leaders and presidents who made decisions, stuck with them and saw them through to the end.

Now, King could have followed up by noting that the polls have not, in fact, "bounced around all over the place" on the subject of Iraq. A majority of Americans have disapproved of the president's handling of Iraq since February 2004, and that disapproval has grown quite steadily since then. King also could have noted the not-so-subtle way Cheney dumped responsibility for the war on Bush -- something he did repeatedly throughout the interview -- by stressing that it was the president who actually makes all the decisions on the subject.

Instead, King asked the same question he'd already asked -- and actually got an answer this time.

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King: But in all cases, they did question themselves. In all cases, they said, well, let's look at it this way. Don't you? I mean the question is, don't you ever say, "Maybe I'm wrong?"

Cheney: No. I think what we do is we look at it in terms of trying to decide what's the right thing to do. And the -- and weigh the evidence. And there's a lot of debate and discussion.

We went through the exercise at the beginning of this year, you may remember, when the president decided to put more forces into Baghdad. That's a time when we evaluated a whole range of options; when we talked to a wide number of people with a variety of viewpoints; met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff; talked to outside military experts, as well as the politicos on the ground; and made a judgment. The president made a decision then, and the -- and I think it was the right decision.

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Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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