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Being Dick Cheney Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

October 14, 2010

On Thursday, the Washington Post literally offered a blast from the past with its profile of vice presidential buckshot recipient Harry Whittington. As the Post reports, "Nearly five years on, he's still waiting for Dick Cheney to say he's sorry" for accidentally shooting him the face during a 2005 hunting trip. Whittington shouldn't hold his breath. As the history sadly shows, being Dick Cheney means never having to say you're sorry.
Just ask Vermont Senator Pat Leahy. During an exchange on the Senate floor in June 2004, the Democrat "Leahy walked over in a friendly way and said the Vice President should feel free to come over on the other side of the aisle too, that Democrats won't bite, and he held out his hand." In response, Cheney told Leahy to "f**k yourself." The f-bomb, Cheney later explained, was "heartfelt." And as he was heading out of office in December 2008, Vice President Cheney told Chris Wallace of Fox News he had no regrets over the episode:

WALLACE: Did you tell Senator Leahy, "bleep yourself"?
CHENEY: I did.
WALLACE: Any qualms, second thoughts, or embarrassment?
CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time and we've since patched over that wound.

Of course, Cheney's claims of infallibility would make the Pope blush.
Especially when it comes to the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture. In February 2010, the former vice president described not shame but pride over his role in authorizing war crimes. He bragged to Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

"I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques..."

And in that same interview, Cheney confirmed that the both Bush legal team that invented the spurious rationale for detainee torture and those implementing it were merely following orders:

"The reason I've been outspoken is because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had -- had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who'd done what we asked them to do."

There are only two problems with the Bush-Cheney tag team defense of waterboarding. The first, of course, is that it didn't save lives. Just as important, with their admissions Cheney and Bush are in essence confessing to war crimes which the Obama administration is both morally and legally obligated to prosecute. As Scott Horton concluded in Harper's regarding Cheney's game of chicken:

"What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants."

Lamenting the Obama administration's refusal to prosecute clear violations of the U.S. and international law, a stunned Professor Jonathan Turley concluded:

"It is an astonishing public admission since waterboarding is not just illegal but a war crime. It is akin to the vice president saying that he supported bank robbery or murder-for-hire as a public policy."

Then there's Iraq. Just weeks before leaving office, Cheney praised the Bush administration for the chaos and carnage in Iraq. Asked if he had any regrets, Cheney responded, "Oh, not a lot, at this stage," adding:

"I'll have a chance to reflect on that after I get out of here," he told ABC News. "Given the circumstances we've had to deal with, I think we've done pretty well."
"I feel very good about what we did. I think it was the right thing to do. If I was faced with those circumstances again, I'd do exactly the same thing," the vice president said.

In March 2008, Cheney anticipated President Bush's later "so what?" response to Martha Raddatz, shrugging off her assertion that "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting" in Iraq by simply remarking, "So?"
As for Harry Whittington, at least he lived to tell his Cheney tale, if only barely. As the Post detailed:

Still, the injuries were more dire than previously disclosed. Whittington suffered a collapsed lung. He underwent invasive exploratory surgery, as doctors probed his vital organs for signs of damage. The load from Cheney's gun came close to, but didn't damage, the carotid artery in his neck. A rupture could have been fatal, particularly since it took the better part of an hour to transport him from the vast Armstrong ranch to the Kingsville hospital.

"I was lucky," Whittington now says. And, unlike the man who nearly killed him, apologetic. As he left the hospital five years ago, Harry Whittington got the roles of victim and victimizer reversed:

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week."

As for getting an apology from Dick Cheney, that remains as ever a long shot.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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