Dick Cheney's memoir is finished, and due to arrive in stores August 30, right in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Its author is therefore making headlines. "A favorite of the right, Cheney is widely regarded as among the most powerful and controversial of vice presidents," The Associated Press reports, "and his book is the most anticipated vice presidential memoir in recent history."
Sounds accurate, right? On the contrary, Jay Cost insists at The Weekly Standard. Offering a brief primer on vice presidents throughout history, he points out we've had our share of traitors and scoundrels. "So why is Dick Cheney 'widely regarded' as the 'most controversial?'" he asks.
I've got answers. One factor is that most people alive today aren't even aware of the most storied vice presidents of centuries past. Then there are the controversial aspects of Cheney's tenure.
1) He pushed hardest for an illegal warrantless wiretapping program that spied on the personal communications of countless innocent Americans, and kept the whole thing secret for years on end.
2) He was instrumental in instituting a program wherein the U.S. would capture a man, hold him in a secret prison, strip him nude, blindfold him, strap him to a board, and repeatedly force water into his throat and lungs in an effort to convince him that he was going to die of drowning.
3) He asserted that the president has the unchecked authority to take any U.S. citizen, declare him an enemy combatant, lock him up indefinitely, deny him counsel, and prevent him from challenging his status in the court system.
4) His often misleading and at times flat out inaccurate statements about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's supposed ties to al Qaeda were instrumental in leading us into an ill-conceived war.
It's hard to say what's most objectionable among willfully violating domestic law, invading the privacy of countless innocent Americans, encouraging the torture of fellow humans, transgressing against the core human right of habeus corpus, violating the Geneva Conventions, undermining the separation of powers at the core of the founding vision, and selling a fantastically expensive, bloody war to the public using false information. But taken together? That pretty much explains the controversy relative to recent vice-presidents. Though in fairness, that early 1990s dust-up between Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown was pretty intense.
Image credit: Reuters
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