When it’s not Dick Cheney in the media defending Dick Cheney and the Bush administration, it’s Liz Cheney.
The elder daughter of Dick Cheney, who was a State Department deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the Bush-Cheney years, appeared on ABC News’ This Week on Sunday and, no surprise, repeatedly justified her father’s actions as veep, especially his support of torture–or, as she called it, “these policies.” Liz Cheney also called President Barack Obama “un-American” for even considering the prosecution of any former Bush administration officials. She claimed her father’s recent public interviews have postively influenced public opinion and the Obama White House–and that these media appearances have helped the Republican Party.
Well, every daughter is entitled to her opinion. And every network is entitled to a new talking head. But Cheney’s appearance reminded me of a forum she attended a year ago, when she demonstrated what seems to be a family trait: putting belief above facts.
At a dialogue hosted last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cheney and several other policy wonks, including Robin Wright, then a diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, discussed US policy toward Iran. At one point, the panelists considered Iranian public attitudes regarding that nation’s nuclear program. Analysts have long noted that Iran’s nuclear program is tremendously popular among Iranians–and that its popularity has to be a factor considered by the United States and other nations calling for a halt in Iran’s nuclear program.
Hogwash, Cheney said. There’s nothing to this argument. But could she back up her point? Let’s go to the videotape–and it’s worth running this excerpt at length:
CHENEY: How does the Iranian public feel about the nuclear program? And, you know, there’s been conventional wisdom, sort of, you know, I’d say, as long as Ahmedinejad has been in power which is that it’s a point of national pride for the Iranian people and that we risk offending that national pride if we assert that Iran doesn’t have a right to a nuclear program.
WRIGHT: With their energy program.
CHENEY: Right. But I think that you are seeing a shift even now on, specifically on this nuclear energy program. And there have been some reports recently out of Tehran that you’ve seen graffiti, for example, playing on Ahmadinejad’s famous statement now, which is, “nuclear power is our national right.” And in some neighborhoods in Tehran, you’ve seen graffiti up on the walls saying, you know, “Danish pastries are our national right.” (Laughter.) So people really sort of mocking Ahmedinejad and mocking the program. And my sense is that the Iranian public is sophisticated enough and aware enough of the extent to which their program is causing them to be an international pariah that we shouldn’t be too quick to assume that, in fact, you’ve got sort of a majority of the Iranian public supporting a nuclear program of any kind.
WRIGHT: I disagree. I couldn’t disagree more. Every poll that’s been taken, including by American groups, using, you know, reliable polls, the right sampling and so forth, show that the overwhelming majority of Iranians believe that nuclear energy is their right. In Iran, they believe that that is the key to development. They think it’s a proud culture and that’s the only way they can restore their – to develop, to be more than an oil power. And the fact is that Iran is scheduled to run out of oil in 2025 or run out of exportable oil in 2025. They really do need nuclear energy. So there may be, you know, anecdotal evidence about graffiti and so forth, but, in own experience – and I go to Iran all of the time – is that you find people who loathe the regime who feel fiercely that nuclear energy is the key to their future.
CHENEY: Yeah, but I think – I mean, that’s anecdotal also. But my only point would be that in the same way as –
WRIGHT: No, I’m talking about polls, Liz.
CHENEY: Well, right, but polls, particularly I would say polls taken of Iranians by Americans are not always right.
WRIGHT: No, they’re not by Americans.
CHENEY: But my point is to say, in the same way that you’re making the point that we need to be cautious about what we know and what we assert about their program, I think we need to be cautious and not talk about the Iranian people as all having a nationalistic sense of pride and demanding a nuclear-power program because I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
To sum up: on the one side, there’s polling data; on the other, Cheney’s assumption, based on street graffiti. Wright called her on her claim that the Iranian public isn’t that keen on a nuclear energy program, and Cheney had nothing with which she could back up her contention.
This exchange shows you how the younger Cheney operates. Moreover, it was eerily reminiscent of the days when Bush-Cheney officials were asserting that Iraqis would embrace an American occupation and eagerly create a pro-Western democracy. Many, if not most, experts said otherwise. But the neocon-influenced Bushies claimed they knew best about what Iraqis wanted and how they would act. This because-I-think-so approach toward public policy led to disastrous results in Iraq. But it appears to be part of the Cheney genetic code.
[An editing error in an earlier version of this piece made it seem as if Liz Cheney had almost suggested that Iraq was connected to 9/11. That mistake has been corrected.]
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