NBC: Dick Cheney 'A Conservative Hero to His Fans, Darth Vader to His Critics'

Monday's NBC Today featured another preview of the upcoming Dateline interview with Dick Cheney about his new memoir, with correspondent Jamie Gangel declaring the former Vice President to be "A conservative hero to his fans, Darth Vader to his critics." [Audio available here]

On Thursday, Gangel also appeared on the NBC morning show to promote the interview, with co-host Ann Curry proclaiming Cheney to be "one of the most controversial figures of our time."

On Monday, fellow co-host Matt Lauer kept up that theme as he announced: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out about his controversial new memoir....looks back on his controversial time in the White House. In an exclusive interview he pulls no punches, makes no apologies. No one's spared, from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice."

Gangel warned viewers "don't be fooled" by Cheney's age and heart condition, asserting: "This book is going to make a lot of people angry." She described how, "Cheney's book is an unapologetic defense of his vice presidency and the controversial programs he championed after 9/11."

Like in the preview clip of the interview shown on Thursday, Gangel grilled Cheney on his support of aggressive interrogation tactics on terror detainees. She concluded that line of questioning by wondering: "No apologies?"

Beyond pushing Cheney to apologize for his policy positions, Gangel tried to use revelations in the book to drive a wedge between him and former President Bush:

Listen to the difference in how the two men describe the eve of the Iraq war. President Bush writes, 'I turned to the team gathered in the Oval Office and said, let's go.' You write, 'The President kicked everyone else out of the Oval Office, looked at me and said, Dick, what do you think we ought to do?'...Do you think these revelations will embarrass President Bush?...Don't you think it will embarrass him that you point out the difference?

Near the end of the segment, Gangel noted that: "Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is now speaking out, saying he always gave the President his best advice and he called former Vice President Cheney's criticisms, quote, 'cheap shots.'"


Here is a full transcript of the August 29 segment on Today:

7:24AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Coming up, former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out about his controversial new memoir and some of his most private moments in the White House. We'll hear from him exclusively.

7:30AM ET TEASE:

LAUER: Plus, Dick Cheney looks back on his controversial time in the White House. In an exclusive interview he pulls no punches, makes no apologies. No one's spared, from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice. We're going to hear from the former Vice President just ahead.

7:39AM ET TEASE:

ANN CURRY: Coming up next, an NBC News exclusive. Dick Cheney talks about the secrets revealed in his new memoir that has all of Washington talking.

7:43AM ET SEGMENT:     

MATT LAUER: Back now at 7:42, with an exclusive interview with Dick Cheney. The former Vice President releases his new memoir, 'In My Time,' this week. It's an unapologetic account of his time in the White House and it's already making some waves. Today national correspondent Jamie Gangel sat down with Mr. Cheney in Wyoming. Jamie, good morning to you.

JAMIE GANGEL: Good morning, Matt. And known to be discrete, a man with few words, the book is filled with revelations, criticism, and a glimpse behind the curtain of private conversations and critical moments with the president who picked him, George W. Bush. You may remember that Dick Cheney's Secret Service name was 'Angler' and it's as fitting as ever. At 70 years old, Dick Cheney may spend his free time fishing, and after major heart surgery, look a little frail, but don't be fooled. This book is going to make a lot of people angry.

DICK CHENEY: There are going to be heads exploding all over Washington, Jamie.

GANGEL: A conservative hero to his fans, Darth Vader to his critics, Cheney's book is an unapologetic defense of his vice presidency and the controversial programs he championed after 9/11. In your view, we should still be using enhanced interrogation?

CHENEY: Yes.

GANGEL: Should we still be waterboarding terror suspects?

CHENEY: I would strongly support using it again if we had a high-value detainee, that was the only way we could get him to talk.
GANGEL: People call it torture. You think it should still be a tool?

CHENEY: Yes.

GANGEL: Rendition.

CHENEY: Yes.

GANGEL: Secret prisons.

CHENEY: Yes.

GANGEL: Wiretapping.

CHENEY: Well, with the right approval.

GANGEL: You say it is one of the things you are proudest of and you would do it again in a heartbeat.

CHENEY: It was controversial at the time. It was the right thing to do.

GANGEL: No apologies?

CHENEY: No apologies.

GANGEL: And while Cheney insists he's not settling scores, the book takes on everyone from former CIA Director George Tenet to former Secretary of State Colin Powell to this withering portrayal of Condoleezza Rice. You write, 'She came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk and tearfully admitted I had been right.' Was she crying?

CHENEY: She was tearful. That's what I wrote. If I wanted to say she was crying, I would have said she was crying.

GANGEL: You know that 'tearfully' is a loaded description for powerful women in high office. It's going to be seen by a lot of people as provocative. Could you have left that word out?

CHENEY: It is an accurate description of what happened and what I saw.

GANGEL: For the record, Cheney praises President Bush as bold and decisive. Who is in charge in the White House?

CHENEY: The President, no question, always.

GANGEL: Was he sensitive about the fact that people thought you were running things?

CHENEY: Not as sensitive as I would have expected. I think some of the staff occasionally were aggravated by a story that said 'Cheney's, you know, pulling the strings behind the scenes.' But it was never true. I mean, George Bush was the president.

GANGEL: But Cheney also goes public with revelations about his old boss. Including private conversations, which show just how much the decider-in-chief depended on the adviser-in-chief. Listen to the difference in how the two men describe the eve of the Iraq war. President Bush writes, 'I turned to the team gathered in the Oval Office and said, let's go.' You write, 'The President kicked everyone else out of the Oval Office, looked at me and said, Dick, what do you think we ought to do?'

CHENEY: That's the way I recall it. And I was giving advice, I wasn't making the decision. He was making the decision.

GANGEL: Do you think these revelations will embarrass President Bush?

CHENEY: I don't know why.

GANGEL: Well, he's saying, 'Let's go, I'm the leader.'

CHENEY: Well, he was.

GANGEL: But you're revealing that it didn't happen that way. He cleared out the office and said, 'Dick, what do you think we should do?'

CHENEY: Right.

GANGEL: It's a very different picture.

CHENEY: Right. But then he made the decision. It wasn't my decision.

GANGEL: Don't you think it will embarrass him that you point out the difference?

CHENEY: I – I didn't set out to embarrass the President or not embarrass the President.

GANGEL: That said, the memoir also portrays a side of Dick Cheney that most people have never seen. At the end of the book Cheney writes philosophically about his five heart attacks and mortality. Last summer he went into end-stage heart failure and doctors implanted a heart pump. Could you just show me how it works?

CHENEY: Sure. It's got a pump inside that's tied into my heart. It's powered by batteries. They're good for about ten hours. And when you take them out it beeps.

GANGEL: Please put it back in.

[Beep, beep, beep]

GANGEL: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former CIA Director George Tenet declined to comment about the book, as did former President George W. Bush. However, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is now speaking out, saying he always gave the President his best advice and he called former Vice President Cheney's criticisms, quote, 'cheap shots.' Matt, tonight on Dateline we're going to have much more, including a visit to one of those undisclosed locations Dick Cheney spent so much time in after 9/11. Matt.

LAUER: It looks fascinating, Jamie Gangel. Jamie, thank you very much.

GANGEL: Thank you.

LAUER: Thank you. And by the way, Dick Cheney will be right here in our studio for an exclusive live interview tomorrow morning here on Today. 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC