August 13, 2009 MSNBC HARDBALL
O'DONNELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is writing his memoirs. And "The Washington Post" reports that the one-time master of secrecy will reveal his grievances with his boss, former President George W. Bush, and detail their heated arguments in full.
Someone who attended a recent Cheney gathering described Cheney's disappointment with Bush and said, in the second term, Cheney felt Bush was moving away from him. He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that.
The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him-or, rather, Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He had showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming.
Tom DeFrank is the Washington bureau chief of "The New York Daily News," and Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.
Tom DeFrank, what do we make of this? Is Dick Cheney ready to violate his omerta, his blood oath of science?
TOM DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, I think he is, up to a point. I guess I think that he's going to show a little leg. He's certainly going to-going to deal with the differences between himself and President Bush, especially in the second term.
But I-I suspect that Cheney is not going to be particularly personal about his view of President Bush. I was in contact this afternoon with somebody who is very familiar with both the book and Cheney's view, and I'm told that the "Washington Post" story, in this view, distorts both Cheney's view of President Bush and what he intends to do in the book.
We will just have to see.
O'DONNELL: Pat Buchanan, you're a veteran of the Nixon White House, where a lot of books came in the aftermath of that administration, with a lot of backstabbing in those books.
Does this surprise you, that Cheney might join that crowd of backstabbers who write memoirs revealing all the secrets after he leaves the White House?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't believe Dick Cheney will engage in backstabbing.
I do believe this, Lawrence, that Cheney does feel, I think, that the Bush administration or the president himself had sort of a lapse of faith in his earlier axis of evil policies, that he put Rumsfeld over the side, who was Dick Cheney's mentor and friend, in a way that was-really reduced Rumsfeld to a level that Cheney felt was insulting.
I think he felt that the president didn't move against North Korea and Iran as toughly as he should have in those final two years. And, of course, you have got the Scooter Libby pardon that didn't happen.
But I agree with Tom that-that Cheney's not going to get personal and small here. I think he's going to defend his record as the most powerful, influential vice president in history, going to say, we did the right thing, we should have been stronger at the end, and he's going to establish a separate identity from George W. Bush.
And I think, probably, he's doing the right thing for himself.
O'DONNELL: All right, let's consider this excerpt from the "Washington Post" story. "'When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him,'" Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. 'Now we're talking about after we have left office. I have strong feelings about what happened, and I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views.'"
Pat Buchanan, doesn't he actually still have a reason not to express those views?
BUCHANAN: I disagree. I think George W. Bush is being very fatalistic. He talks about in 50 years history may-will decide what my presidency is like. Cheney sees this as being put in ice as a failed presidency.
Let me give you an example. I don't know what Cheney's position was, but my guess would be he would liked to have unleashed the Israelis on Iran or have gone himself, had the United States take out those nuclear facilities. Now, if he has a very strong position-he felt that was the right position, and he was vetoed by the president-you follow the president when you were in there. But when you leave and write your memoirs, Lawrence, I think it's fair to say, this is what I thought should be done and here is what I said?
O'DONNELL: Tom Defrank, doesn't the loyalty extend to history?
Doesn't it extend to the time after office?
DEFRANK: Well, up to a point, I would say, Lawrence. Of course, I think the Bush clan would say that. I mean, the Bush-
O'DONNELL: How is the Bush clan going to react to this?
DEFRANK: Well, the Bush clan, as you well know, prides loyalty over every other factor, over competence and everything else. So unless this is a big distortion of where Cheney really is going to be, I think the Bush people will think this is an act of disloyalty.
On the other hand, one thing that resonated with me about this story was something that happened to me that is very similar to an incident in this story, where Cheney years ago, maybe 25 years ago, said to me he would never write a book, because you've got to be willing-there's got to be one guy around a president who shuts up and keeps his mouth shut.
Why has he changed his mind? I suspect it's because he believes very strongly in certain things. And he clearly was overruled a fair amount in the second term. And I think he has decided, for his own sake and for history's sake, that he's going to lay out some of that. But I don't believe he's going to beat up the president, President Bush. That would probably-as Nixon said, it would be wrong.
O'DONNELL: Pat Buchanan, you've crossed the Bush family. You had the audacity to run against the first President Bush for president. How did that feel? You're still alive. You seem OK.
BUCHANAN: Well, it was-we had a pretty rough going over. But when you take on the president of the United States, as I have often said-people say you can't fight city hall. Try overthrowing the government of the United States. So you expect that.
But let me say on a personal level, as Tom did, I'm very loyal. I like Richard Nixon. He was like a father to me. But if I wrote my memoirs, which I intend to do, I would have no hesitancy in saying that I urged him to do the bombing on North Vietnam in 1969. I thought he should have vetoed this bill, and he didn't do it. I think you can do that and be respectful and say, you know, the president of the United States, you serve him loyally, but you got a right to write your memoirs and say where you stood on all these issues, after the presidency is over.
O'DONNELL: Pat, why didn't you write your Nixon memoir in the '70s when it was hot? If you do a Nixon memoir, it is going to come out over 40 years later, after the president is dead. It seems to me there's a big difference between that and what Cheney is doing.
BUCHANAN: You're right. But look, I was not 68 years old then. I was 34, 35 when I left the administration. Cheney, let's face it, he's had a heart condition. He's got a tremendous reputation in history as the most controversial vice president, most powerful, influential. I almost think, Lawrence, he's got an obligation to lay out why he did what he did.
He's been out front on the torture issue, as they call it. He confronted the president of the United States, Obama, on that. And I think what he's saying is, look, if Mr. Bush wants to go out there and, you know, let history be the judge, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to make the case for what I said and did, because I believe it was right and I believe it is still the right thing to do in the interests of the national security.
And truth be told, Cheney has-if you talk national security, I think Dick Cheney still has great credibility with tens of millions of Americans on that issue.
O'DONNELL: All right. I think I smell book hype here. I'm not-I have a feeling there's going to be less than we want in this book. Thank you, Tom Defrank. Thank you, Pat Buchanan.