Announcing his Christmas 1992 pardons of Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-Contra figures, President George H.W. Bush introduced a time-honored Republican scandal evasion by decrying "the criminalization of policy differences." Now, 22 years after his own role in a Congressional minority report which blasted the allegations of Reagan administration abuses of power as "hysterical," Dick Cheney is back to defend the "little guys" now at the center of the Bush 43 administration's regime of detainee torture.
In an interview with 9/11-Iraq fabulist and chief Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes, the Vice President explained why he was not following George W. Bush's guidance that President Obama "deserves my silence." Just like Oliver North and Cap Weinberger all those years ago, the "little guys" who architected and carried out waterboarding and other potential war crimes, Cheney insisted, deserve his protection:
"I went through the Iran-contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time. I think to George Tenet's credit-I don't agree with George on a lot of stuff-but I think he was of the same view and that's why we had all of these requests coming through for policy guidance and for legal opinions. And this time around I'll do my damndest to defend anybody out there-be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don't know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will."
Looking back on then-Representative Dick Cheney's hand in the 1987 Congressional Iran-Contra Committee minority report, one could be excused for performing a mental copy and paste. Substitute Bush for Reagan and torture for Iran-Contra, and you'd thnk you were reading an excerpt of Cheney's upcoming book:
"The bottom line, however, is that the mistakes of the Iran-contra affair were just that - mistakes in judgment, and nothing more. There was no constitutional crisis, no systematic disrespect for ''the rule of law,'' no grand conspiracy, and no Administration-wide dishonesty or coverup. In fact, the evidence will not support any of the more hysterical conclusions the committees' report tries to reach."
Then as now, Cheney and his allies insisted Democrats were "criminalizing politics." Rep. Cheney even anticipated Michael Mukasey's claim that "the Bybee memo, to paraphrase a French diplomat, was worse than a sin, it was a mistake." Which makes the use of the same language by Attorney General Eric Holder ("we don't want to criminalize policy differences that might exist") and President Obama ("whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake") all the more disconcerting.
Karl Marx famously said that historical events occur twice, first as tragedy and the second time as farce. Of course, Karl Marx never met Dick Cheney.