Monday, June 19, 2006

Dick Cheney's Last Throes

Dick Cheney, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon today:

Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that aggressive U.S. action is responsible for preventing new terror attacks since the Sept. 11 strikes.

"Nobody can promise that we won't be hit," Cheney said. But he credited a determined offense against terrorists abroad, improved intelligence-gathering and preventive steps at home for thwarting or discouraging terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Okay, so then why was a terrorist attack on New York City's subway system averted only because Ayman Zawahiri called it off at the last minute? And why did the Department of Homeland Security slash New York City's funding by 40% and increase funding for cities like Louisville, Kentucky; and Omaha, Nebraska?

... Cheney also said that, when President Bush and he took office in January 2001, the balance of power in government was tilted in favor of Congress.

The unpopular Vietnam War and the Watergate scandals allowed Congress to take more authority at the expense of the executive branch, Cheney said. He and the president believed it was important to "have the balance righted, if you will. And I think we've done that successfully," he said.

Democratic critics of the president and even some Republicans have questioned the administration's assertion of expanded executive power in the name of combatting terrorism. These include warrantless eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, detention of suspected terrorists without charges, expanded powers under the Patriot Act and alleged secret CIA prisons overseas.

Cheney defended the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program, which the administration calls its "terrorist surveillance program" as important in the war on terror, while conceding it was controversial.

"We have been engaged in a debate about the wisdom of the program and whether or not it's legal, but it clearly is legal, we believe. It is consistent with the Constitution."

It clearly is legal, we believe?

Cheney also defended his "last throes" comment made over a year ago, and actually said he still believes it's true.

Cheney tries to spin his previous comments as a prediction of political progress. Cheney now says he meant that May 2005 would be the beginning of a "series of events when the Iraqis increasingly took over responsibility for their own affairs." Actually, Cheney predicted that violence in the country, from May 2005 on, "will clearly decline."

Full transcript:

REPORTER: About a year ago, you said that the insurgency in Iraq was in its final throes. Do you still believe this?

CHENEY: I do. What I was referring to was the series of events that took place in 1995 [sic -- 2005]. I think the key turning point when we get back 10 years from now, say, and look back on this period of time and with respect to the campaign in Iraq, will be that series of events when the Iraqis increasingly took over responsibility for their own affairs. And there I point to the election in January of '05 when we set up the interim government, the drafting of the constitution in the summer of '05, the national referendum in the fall of '05 when the Iraqis overwhelmingly approved that constitution, and then the vote last December when some 12 million Iraqis in defiance of the car bombers and the terrorists went to the polls and voted in overwhelming numbers to set up a new government under that constitution. And that process of course has been completed recently with the appointment by Prime Minister Maliki of ministers to fill those jobs. I think that will have been from a historical turning point, the period that we'll be able to look at and say, that's when we turned the corner, that's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq.

Think Progress has the video.

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