Acting against better judgment, I just read Cheney’s speech, a masterwork of dishonesty founded on the assertion that torture works, that Americans should be proud of and grateful for an administration that broke the law, and that such lawlessness did nothing to undermine the nation’s values or moral standing. His essential claims are such vintage Cheney that I half expected him to detour into an lengthy exposition about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; even so, he couldn’t help touting Saddam Hussein’s “known ties to Middle East terrorists,” but he forgot to credit the late Ibn Shaikh al-Libi for this valuable information. Gee, I wonder why?
In any event, the speech is useful only to the extent that it compiles all of the least convincing arguments on behalf of executive lawlessness. My personal favorite happens to be his insistence that a joint congressional resolution provided the administration with the “specific” authorization it needed to begin throttling terrorist suspects and eavesdropping on domestic phone calls. Like the customary, confused apologies raised on behalf of the Confederacy — e.g., the war wasn’t about slavery; slavery was a humane and decent system; the madmen of the North were determined to crush liberty itself; etc. — Cheney’s arguments aren’t really worth the minimal effort needed to refute them, but it’s nice of him to lay them out there once again. It’s not quite as blunt as Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone” speech, but it will do.