I surfed the Sunday talk shows yesterday, but this is the one I really wanted to see:
TIM RUSSERT: Our stories this morning - President Bush keeps Scooter Libby out of jail and triggers more controversy for a beleaguered administration that is also facing major Senate Republican defections over the war in Iraq. These issues and more for our exclusive guest, the vice president of the United States. Dick Cheney, welcome back to Meet the Press. It’s good to have you here.
CHENEY: I’m not here.
RUSSERT: Excuse me?
CHENEY: Well, clearly I am ‘here,’ if by ‘here’ you are referring only to a temporal physical presence, one that is most certainly superseded by the provisions of Article VIII of the U.S. Constitution.
RUSSERT: I was not aware - forgive me, sir, but I was taught many years ago that the U.S. Constitution contains only seven articles. Are you saying -
CHENEY: Exactly right. Alexander Hamilton was a very prescient man, and he clearly foresaw the loss of life on Sept. 11 when he personally crafted Article VIII, which enumerates the inherently implicit powers of the vice president to create the fourth branch of government in time of national emergency. I would share this newly discovered document with you, but legal counsel compels me not to, although I can say with confidence today that we will be sharing it with our Iraqi friends, who continue to seek advice on how to best construct their new democracy.
RUSSERT: All right, let’s move to the topic of Iraq. Your superior, President Bush –
CHENEY (lopsided grin): My what?
RUSSERT: All right, perhaps I'm not up to speed on Article VIII. Let me rephrase. Mr. Bush last week announced that he had commuted the jail sentence of your longtime close aide, Scooter Libby, even though Mr. Libby had been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a national security investigation into an alleged White House effort to smear a critic of the Iraq war. Newsweek has just posted a new article about the president’s backstage deliberations. Let’s look at a key passage.
NEWSWEEK EXCERPT ON SCREEN (RUSSERT NARRATING): The president was conflicted. He hated the idea that a loyal aide would serve time. Hanging over his deliberations was Cheney, who said he was “very disappointed” with the jury’s verdict. Cheney did not directly weigh in with Fielding – that’s Fred Fielding, the White House counsel – but nobody involved had any doubt where he stood. “I’m not sure Bush had a choice," says one of his advisors. "If he didn’t act, it would have caused a fracture with the vice president.”
RUSSERT: Any comment?
CHENEY: Tim, as you know, Newsweek is affiliated with The Washington Post, and The Washington Post, as you know, has not always been a friend of those who understand the threat of our enemies at home and abroad. And it would appear, from this report, that it was sourced in part by leaks that I did not authorize –
RUSSERT: But isn’t there something disturbing about the suggestion that Bush didn’t have a “choice” in the matter? That he had to let Libby off, because if he didn’t, he would make you angry? Forgive me, sir, but who is running this country?
CHENEY: Again, Tim, I could reference Article VIII, but if you insist on seeing it, legal counsel advises me to take preventive measures, through the use of a burn bag.
RUSSERT: That won’t be necessary. But some people allege, Mr. Vice President, that the decision to free Mr. Libby sets up a double standard of justice. It is well known, for example, that when Mr. Bush was the governor of Texas, he turned down 57 requests to commute the death sentences of inmates who had received shoddy legal representation. One of those lawyers literally fell asleep during his client’s trial. Amnesty International even issued a report about the Bush years. I'm quoting now: “At every step of the process in Texas, a litany of grossly inadequate legal procedures fail to meet minimum international standards for the protections of human rights,” while also failing to adopt the minimum standards set by the American Bar Association. Mr. Vice President, is it fair to free Mr. Libby, who had the best legal representation money can buy –
CHENEY: Tim, again, Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that changed America, and I was of course disappointed that the judge and jury in Mr. Libby’s case declined to honor Mr. Libby’s contributions in taking the fight to the enemy in Iraq –
RUSSERT: Sir, are you suggesting that Saddam Hussein planned the Sept. 11 attacks…But let’s stay on point here. Why is it fair that Mr. Bush should be lenient with Mr. Libby, in direct contradiction to his tough-on-crime record in Texas – where as documents clearly indicate, he repeatedly refused to commute the death sentences of inmates who were mentally ill and mentally retarded?
CHENEY: Tim, I can say categorically that the mentally ill had absolutely no role in planning or executing our vital war in Iraq.
RUSSERT: Well, let’s talk for a moment about that war. You’re losing support these days even among Senate Republicans who don’t see any progress in Iraq. This weekend, in fact, a suicide truck bomb killed as many as 200 people, perhaps the deadliest single event since the 2003 invasion, and scores of other deaths were reported as well. Yet here is something you said, on this show, back on Sept. 14 of that year. Let’s watch.
VIDEO EXCERPT ON SCREEN (CHENEY, 9/14/03): We’re moving aggressively to deal with the security situation. We’re continuing those efforts. We’ve got some first-rate troops undertaking those efforts, and, needless to say, we’ve had major success, major progress when you think about the number of Iraqi bad guys that we’ve eliminated or captured….We’ve got Iraqis now in charge of each ministry in the government. We’ve got 90 percent—over 90 percent of the cities and towns and villages of Iraq are now governed by democratically elected or appointed local councils. We’ve got all the schools open; we’ve got all the hospitals up and functioning…
RUSSERT: Given the current bloodshed, Mr. Vice President, were you perhaps too optimistic in 2003?
CHENEY: Well, again, Tim, let’s talk about the unfortunate incident this weekend. To me it clearly demonstrates that the perpetrators are increasingly desperate, and that the Iraqi insurgency itself is in its last throes, if you will. And may I say one thing more, Tim?
RUSSERT: Absolutely, Mr. Vice President, it’s always a pleasure to have you here.
CHENEY: Yes, well, I would like to confiscate the video of this particular show –
RUSSERT: Excuse me?
CHENEY: - and request a permanent embargo on any and all transcripts of this show, as they might signal our future intentions to the enemy, under the provisions of Section 3 of the aforementioned Article VIII.
RUSSERT: Mr. Vice President, that is an extraordinary request. Perhaps I may at least be permitted to read the relevent provisions of Article VIII, before forwarding your request to NBC.
CHENEY: Well, we might be able to arrange that –
RUSSERT: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
CHENEY: - but then we might have to kill you.