Jon Garfunkel has some thoughts on the 1994 Dick Cheney tape. There’s a lot in here, including some ramblings from the conspiracy-minded left as to whether the media are deliberately ignoring evidence that George W. Bush is prematurely senile. But Garfunkel does get to the heart of the matter with this about the Cheney tape:
[W]hat’s remarkable is that no one found this earlier — five years ago would have been a good time. Vice President Cheney appeared on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on September 8, 2002 and then on March 16, 2003, three days before the Iraq war. Russert asked him reasonably tough questions. In the March interview he showed a video clip from Cheney’s appearance on the the show during the 2000 campaign. Cheney had said in 2000 that they didn’t go to Baghdad on the advice of the neighboring governments in the coalition. What had changed, to Cheney and the war’s supporters, was the world on 9/11. But while the specter of global terrorism may have changed the urgency for war, it could not have changed the expectations about the quagmire. Either the 1991 NPR clip or the 1994 C-SPAN clip would have brought that more directly.
Garfunkel makes an important point here. After I posted my earlier item, several Cheney defenders wrote comments saying, essentially, So what? Lots of politicians change their minds. Look at John Kerry! Karl Rove said the same thing yesterday in his appearance on “Meet the Press,” telling substitute host David Gregory:
He [Cheney], he was describing the conditions in 1994. By 2003 the world had changed. It changed on 9/11, and it became clear — it should be clear to every American that we live in a dangerous world where we cannot let emerging threats fully materialize in attacks on our homeland…. [P]eople are entitled over time to look at the conditions and change their mind, and that’s exactly what Dick Cheney did.
Well, yes. But, as Garfunkel observes, changing your mind about the threat posed by Iraq is one thing (John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”), but changing your mind about the consequences of war is quite another. We now know that Cheney got it exactly right in 1994. We have no idea why he later decided the invasion and its aftermath would be a cakewalk. Did Ahmed Chalabi really hold that much sway?
Not that it could have stopped the war, but it’s a shame that Cheney’s 1994 words couldn’t have been thrown in his face in 2002 and ’03, before the invasion. Forcing him to explain why he no longer believed the war would lead to a quagmire would have been a useful exercise. It’s nice that it’s come out now, but at this late date it only confirms what most Americans believe about a vice president they detest and a war they no longer support.
Update: The Telegraph quotes Media Nation.