Scarborough to Cheney: What Happened to Your 'Moderate Voice of Republicanism?'

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Thursday pressed Dick Cheney over his new book, wondering "what changed Dick Cheney from the man who was seen by everybody as the moderate voice of Republicanism in Washington D.C. to a man who seemed to morph overnight into Darth Vader?"

Of course, when Cheney was a Congressman (from 1979 through 1988), he earned a perfect 100 score from the American Conservative Union three times and was at 90 or above another three years. The former Vice President appeared on Morning Joe to promote his new book and even offer some surprise appreciation for comments by Chris Matthews and MSNBC analyst Mike Barnicle.

Cheney recounted how the praise the two TV personalities gave him after a 2004 vice presidential debate with John Edwards.

On air, Cheney read from his own book, quoting, "I enjoyed listening to the after-debate commentary. MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who usually turns red in the face and starts shouting at the mere mention of my name, paid me a compliment, describing the debate between Cheney and Edwards as the Howitzer and the water pistol."

(Interestingly, when Cheney read his own name, he pronounced it the same way Matthews does: CHEE-NEE. However, later, he stated it the standard way. A subtle dig at the Hardball host who insists on the first version?)

The ex-VP also expressed his pleasure over Barnicle's review of that debate. This prompted the former Boston Globe columnist to push back, "Well, I don't think you will enjoy this segment as much."

He then described the book as "uniquely without regret" and derided the Bush administration's ability to get the proper equipment to our soldiers in Iraq.

Regarding a U.S. casulty in Iraq, Barnicle quizzed, "How is it and what would you say to his parents today? How is it that young men are sent to war without the proper equipment. We're the United States of America? How did that happen? Any regrets over that?"

The Morning Joe crew allowed Cheney a lengthy, uninterrupted response. He noted, "When the Humvee was designed, it was a soft sided vehicle, a replacement for trucks and jeeps. It was not an armored vehicle by any means. They had to adjust on the fly, if you will."

A transcript of the September 1 segment can be found below:


7:28am EDT

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Earlier this week, when we talked about you coming on the show, there was discussion around the table. I think it was John Heilemann that said, you know, what's not answered in the book is what changed Dick Cheney from the man who was seen by everybody as the moderate voice of Republicanism in Washington D.C. to a man who seemed to morph overnight into Darth Vader? That was your nickname. Brent Scowcroft said, "I don't know Dick Cheney anymore." Explain, first of all, what caused this supposed transformation, first of all [sic]. And second of all, how tough has it been for you and your family to deal with that transformation?

DICK CHENEY: Well, it wasn't tough to deal with the transformation. After being vice president for a few years, subject of all the jokes on Leno and Letterman, you need to have a pretty thick skin to get up every morning and function. I never let it bother me and we used to joke about it. I have a great picture that the staff took of me one day. They didn't know- I didn't know they were there. They snuck in with a camera and I had a Darth Vader mask on, Darth Vader sitting behind the desk in the President's office. It's- Part of it had to do with the fact, the nature of the job. I was doing something that hadn't been done very often as Vice President. I wasn't really in charge of anything. It's not like running the Defense Department with four million people or running the White House. But there were things that needed to be done that I chose to do. The President wanted me to do them and it generated controversy.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: As Joe pointed out, you played a role in his advancement. You also played a role in his removal. And on Face the Nation, he called some of the things you wrote in this book about him and other members of the administration as cheap shots. And I wonder, as you write in your book, sort of questioning his loyalty, really, where the loyalty lied, if that is fair or if maybe you could you be more specific? Because wasn't it Colin Powell who put himself out there for this administration, especially when it came to the argument of the war and took the biggest hit of his career for it?

CHENEY: Well, that's true. He did, when he went to the United Nations to make his presentation and lay down the intelligence that turned out to be flawed, much of it with respect to WMD. But, no, I think a fair reading of the book, which I had a strong suspicion Colin hadn't done before he made his comments, there's a lot more about our collaboration together in the Defense Department together. Three chapters that deal with the Defense Department, then there was in terms of my comment of how I thought he was conducting himself while he was Secretary of State.   

...

CHENEY: This was in the portion on the 2004 election after the debate I had with John Edwards.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

CHENEY [Reading from his book]: It said I enjoyed listening to the after debate commentary. MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who usually turns red in the face and starts shouting at the mere mention of my name, paid me a compliment, describing the debate between Cheney and Edwards as the Howitzer and the water pistol. Mike Barnicle of the Boston Herald was also kind. "The only thing that surprised him," he said, was at the end of the debate, at the end of  90 minutes, Dick Cheney didn't turn to John Edwards and say "By the way, give me the car keys, too." I love- That made my whole night.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: That's good. That's very Barnicle.

MIKE BARNICLE: Well, I don't think you will enjoy this segment as much. The book- A cursory reading of the book,  I haven't read the whole thing yet, but it's uniquely without regret, Mr. Vice President. And I would like to ask you about one specific example that I know of that pertains to your life as Vice President and it has to do with a young man named John Hart, who there's no reason for you to know him. He was 20 years of age when he was killed in Iraq, shortly after the war began. And one of the principle reasons he died, other than being shot to death by Iraqi insurgents, was the vehicle he was in, an unarmored Humvee was uniquely ill equipped to fight that portion of the war. And at that period of time, right into the war, couple of of months into the war, more than 12,000 Humvees were up-armored. How is it and what would you say to his parents today? How is it that young men are sent to war without the proper equipment. We're the United States of America? How did that happen? Any regrets over that?

CHENEY: Well, certainly wish something like that hadn't happened. You hope that all of the people they send out on behalf of the United States all come home safe and sound. Obviously, excuse me, that doesn't happen with modern warfare. You do the best you can with working with the military to prepare forces for the contingencies they are likely to encounter. But, I think, clearly, the military encountered circumstances in Iraq with respect to the problem of improvised devices that they had not been prepared to accept. When the Humvee was designed, it was a soft sided vehicle, a replacement for trucks and jeeps. It was not an armored vehicle by any means. They had to adjust on the fly, if you will. Spent a lot of money to improve the quality of the vehicles to reduce the extent of which we were taking casualties out of them. But, every war that I'm familiar with has certain elements that simply aren't anticipated at the outset when you make decisions ten years in advance what kind of equipment you are going to buy and ten years later, you are using it. Lots of times you find that there are adjustments you have to make because you did not anticipate the particular problem that ultimately arises.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org