Dick Cheney on Economy: “Stuff Happens”

Once again, the “liberal media” gives Dick Cheney a platform from which to attack Barack Obama for being presumptuous enough to define appropriate national security policy in his own presidency:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday defended the Bush administration’s economic record, the invasion of Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists, warning that reversing its anti-terrorism policies endangers Americans.

In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cheney said the harsh interrogations of suspects and the use of warrantless electronic surveillance were “absolutely essential” to get information to prevent more attacks like the 2001 suicide hijackings that targeted New York and Washington.

“President Obama campaigned against it all across the country, and now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” he said.

Cheney was much more sanguine about the harm done to the U.S. economy and the risks created by millions of Americans losing their homes, their jobs, their savings, their pension plans, and their health care (emphasis in original):

… [CNN interviewer John] King noted the following statistical changes that occurred under the Bush/Cheney administration:

Unemployment rate: Rose from 4.2 percent to 7.6 percent
Poverty: Jumped from 32.9 million individuals to 37.3 million
Uninsured: Escalated from 41.2 million individuals to 45.7 million
Budget deficit: Inherited budget surplus of $128 billion and left office with $1.3 trillion deficit

“So what would you say to someone out there watching this who’s saying why should they listen to you?” King asked. Cheney responded that there’s “all kinds of arguments that could be made,” but he emphasized that there is “something more important than” the specific numbers King cited — namely, 9/11.

Cheney argued the Bush administration had to spend (without paying for it) because it went into “wartime mode.” Cheney also referenced the need to spend money after the Katrina disaster:

All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend or weren’t originally part of the budget. Stuff happens. And the administration has to be able to respond to that, and we did.

King did interrupt Cheney at this point to say, “But you’re a conservative administration, spending more than $1 trillion…” to which Cheney replied, “We always said — I always said that wartime scenario is cause for an exception in terms of spending. It was appropriate in World War II, certainly, and I think it’s appropriate now.”

However, King did not make the obvious follow-up request that Cheney explain why war is a crisis that justifies spending hundreds of billions of dollars that you don’t have, and don’t even account for in the official budget, whereas the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with millions of Americans losing their homes, their jobs, and their ability to pay for the most basic necessities of life, is not a crisis that calls for a massive infusion of government money to get people and businesses spending again.

Of course, it’s not by chance that the former vice-president ends up being interviewed by a media personality with a long history of treating conservatives with kid gloves. Cheney has rarely granted an interview to any journalist who is likely to ask tough questions.

Talking Points Memo has the full transcript of the King-Cheney interview.

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