One of the more intelligent decisions made by the Bush White House was to limit Dick Cheney’s public visibility. He would grant interviews from time to time, but Bush and his strategists – and Cheney himself – recognized that, when it came to selling the administration’s policies, Cheney’s cold and dour demeanor, coupled with his immense unpopularity, were significant liabilities. It was Bush who did the public cheerleading for the schemes Cheney drew up behind the scenes – at least this was the image that emerged.
So it seems odd that, at least in the first two months of the Bush post-presidency, the role of chief public defender of the Bush record has been handed off to, and embraced by, Dick Cheney.
The former V.P. appeared on CNN on Sunday in an extensive interview with John King. On the subject of the Bush-Cheney record, he was unapologetic. For instance, he vigorously denied any culpability for the economic catastrophe that took hold before he and Bush left office. “I don’t think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances,” Cheney offered. “It’s a global financial problem.”
He also made sure to single out two Democrats – Chris Dodd and Barney Frank – for sabotaging Bush’s efforts “to deal with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac problem some years before” their troubles came to light. And when King confronted him with a slew of statistics – for unemployment, poverty, health insurance coverage, the federal deficit – that had grown dramatically worse during the Bush years, Cheney fell back on an old stand-by: “Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11.”
What was more striking, though, was Cheney’s willingness – eagerness, it often seemed – to bluntly criticize Barack Obama and the new Democratic administration. Asked if “the president of the United States has made America less safe,” Cheney didn’t hesitate to reply, “I do.” Asked about Obama’s choice for a new ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, Cheney offered that “He’s not the man I would have picked for that post” and added that “I did not support the work that Chris Hill did with respect to North Korea.” And asked about a cover story in the conservative publication Human Events that accused the Obama team of resorting to “brazen” deception, Cheney agreed that “I think they’ve taken liberties, if you will, with the arguments.”