CNN's Paul Begala Sneers: 'Destructive' Dick Cheney Is a ‘Sociopath'

CNN: the home for hate-filled rants against conservatives. On the July 16 edition of New Day, a panel reacted to Jake Tapper’s testy interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney. Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala became unhinged, resorting to personal attacks on Cheney in response to his explanations of the Iraq war.

Asked by host Kate Bolduan as to why Cheney is speaking out right now – as if the chaos in Iraq didn’t make that self-evident – Begala snapped: “Well, either he's a secret plant from my party, reminding people of an administration that they hated. When he left office Dick Cheney's favorable was 13 percent. There are forms of venereal disease that are higher in the polls than 13%.” [MP3 audio here; video below]

After Bolduan implored Begala to “stop it,” the former Clinton White House advisor kept his rant going in spite of her pleas: “So, that's one option. Or, which I think is much more likely, he's a sociopath. Good lord...the most damaging, destructive vice presidency since Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton 210 years ago.

The CNN contributor was unwilling to back down at all from his statement, despite the reaction from the rest of the panel. He insisted, “No apology, no remorse. This was a man who was charged – the first thing he was asked to do as Vice President was to lead a task force on terrorism. That task force never met. The top White House counter-terrorism official was running around with his hair on fire.”

Republican strategist Kevin Madden objected to Begala’s words, saying petty personal attacks were not necessary: “Look, substantively Paul can disagree with him. I don't think it calls for insults. I don't know about the disease transmission comment. I don't even know where to start with that.”

This over-the-top dialogue is hardly constructive when dealing with issues as complex as Iraq. Begala’s attack on Cheney’s character is not likely to resolve anything and not likely to change anyone’s mind, yet CNN continues to give the former Clinton staffer a large platform.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below.

CNN
New Day
July 16, 2014
6:22 a.m. Eastern

CHRIS CUOMO, host: All right. A lot to discuss. Here comes Kevin Madden, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist and Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, senior adviser to Priorities USA Action. Kevin Madden, I don't know why you're smiling. Let me ask you a question. He wants to talk about the Iraq war and how we got into it so it's fair to look back. I'm all for progress, but the Vice President wants to look back. How does he ignore the decisions that got us into the Iraq war, and do you, as a representative of the Republican Party, endorse Cheney's view that the decisions that put us into Iraq were good decisions?

KEVIN MADDEN, Republican strategist: Uh, well boy, that's a lot to digest right there.

CUOMO: It's a yes, no question.

KATE BOLDUAN, host: Sum it up in 15 seconds.

CUOMO: It’s a yes, no.

MADDEN: I think the um – if I were to label this interview and sum it up I would say it was no retreat by Dick Cheney. He's seriously dug in on his positions. I think that he is, he firmly believes, as you can tell by the way he answered the questions in the interview, that in the long view of history that his view and the decisions that he made are going to be vindicated when it comes to America's national security posture and the decisions that we made in order to ensure that posture, and I think that one of the things that he sought to do in that interview was, again, provide the context for the decisions that President Bush made and that he supported in going into Iraq, given the sense after 9/11 we had a very unstable situation and we had radical Islamic jihadists that we worried would get their hands on nuclear weapons and that an anticipatory self-defense was needed so I think he's very, very interested – again, believes very strongly that he's going to be vindicated in the long run, and that what he's doing right now is engaged in an active litigation of those positions because he feels that right now some people inside the Republican Party aren't doing it and he's worried a little bit more about the Rand Paul isolationist wing of the Republican Party emerging as a dominant voice.

BOLDUAN: He also says he wants to make sure, Paul, that the Republican Party are the go-to guys in his words on national security and defense policy. Now while I know you agree with Dick Cheney on probably nothing, and you also relish the fact on taking him on almost as much as you relish the fact of taking on Rick Perry as you did last week, what do you think looking forward, what do you think is Cheney's goal in coming out and speaking out so forcefully and so often really relatively speaking, right now?

PAUL BEGALA, Democratic strategist: Well, either he's a secret plant from my party, reminding people of an administration that they hated. When he left office Dick Cheney's favorable was 13%. There are forms of venereal disease that are higher in the polls than 13%.

BOLDUAN: Oh, stop it, Paul!

BEGALA: So, that's one option. Or, which I think is much more likely, he's a sociopath. Good lord.

BOLDUAN: Oh, come on, no!

BEGALA: The most damaging, destructive vice presidency since Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton 210 years ago.

CUOMO: Hold on a second.

BOLDUAN: Come on!

BEGALA: No apology, no remorse. This was a man who was charged – the first thing he was asked to do as Vice President, number one, was to lead a task force on terrorism. That task force never met. The top White House counterterrorism official was running around with his hair on fire. Cheney wouldn't even meet with him and the attack came. That is on Mr. Cheney's record.

BOLDUAN: Kevin, jump in on this, because make the argument against the fact that Paul thinks he’s a sociopath. Is there a place in the Republican Party for Dick Cheney?

BEGALA: He’s acting like a sociopath. I'm not a qualified psychologist, but he’s acting like one.

MADDEN: Look, substantively Paul can disagree with him. I don't think it calls for insults. I don't know about the disease transmission comment. I don't even know where to start with that. It's too early in the morning, but, you know, he makes his points and then he backs them up with what he believes is an evidentiary trail of reason on them.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.