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January 15, 2009

Cheney Reflects on Term, Defends Terrorism Policy

In a 30-minute interview with Jim Lehrer, outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney defended the Bush administration’s record on the war in Iraq and fighting terrorism.

Cheney, who grants few interviews, talked with Lehrer about the troubled economy, his administration’s low approval ratings, and allegations that the United States tortured terrorism suspects after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In response to a question about a recent Washington Post story that quoted a Bush administration official saying that alleged terrorist Mohammed al-Qatani was tortured, Cheney said that while he didn’t know the details, the Defense Department would investigate and that nothing done to detainees at Guantanamo violated official policy.

He also said that the Bush team was able to “interrupt, block, defeat all further attempts by al-Qaida to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States after 9/11.”

The question about torture comes 20 minutes into the interview.


“I think what was significant for me was 9/11. And I think it’s easy, if you didn’t experience that, or if you’re not worried about it now, because it was seven years ago, easy to forget what that entailed or what that involved.” -Vice President Dick Cheney

“The easy thing to do is, well, let’s not do terrorist surveillance, let’s not have a robust interrogation program of these al-Qaida folks when we capture them, let’s not take aggressive action to defend the nation, because then the New York Times will love us and we’ll get editorials written about us all over the country and our numbers will go up in the polls.” – Dick Cheney

“I loved it. It’s been a great job. It’s been, obviously, a tremendous challenge. I’d spent 25 years in government when I left the Defense Department back in ’93, decided I’d go spend the rest of my career in the private sector, and then the president tapped me to come be his running mate. And it’s been a remarkable experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” – Dick Cheney

Warm Up Questions

1. What is the role of the vice president?

2. What do you know about Vice President Cheney?

3. Who is the next vice president?

Discussion Questions

1. Did this interview change your perception of Vice President Cheney? For better or worse?

2. What is your definition of torture? What is Cheney’s definition? Why is there a debate about the definition of torture? Where are the grey areas?

3. Do you agree with Cheney that polls and elections are the only measure of success for an outgoing president? What is a good measure of success?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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