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Dick Cheney is offended

The ex-veep's latest attempt at bamboozlement

We interrupt this vacation...

My vacation house, tucked against the side of a North Carolina mountain, does not have a television. This is a beautiful thing, because it reduces to zero the odds that some serial Washington dissembler will invade my space on Sunday morning. The Sunday shows habitually recycle the same bamboozlers - people like Dick Cheney - and it's frankly a bore.

Nevertheless, as I sat in a restaurant yesterday, sure enough, there was Dick Cheney grousing on the TV monitor, in a video clip from Fox News Sunday. I couldn't help but wonder what had sparked his ire (yet again), and what fact-challenged assertions he was undoubtedly inflicting (yet again) on the Sunday audience.

It turns out that Cheney doesn't like the Justice Department's decision to investigate whether CIA operatives broke the law while questioning suspected terrorists; in Cheney's words, "it offends the hell out of me, frankly."

That's a good one. Dick Cheney, who marched us to war with a litany of lies (many of them uttered on Sunday talk shows), declares that he is offended by the Justice Department's attempt to uphold the rule of law. Could attorney general Eric Holder possibly garner a better endorsement for his decision? 

Cheney argued yesterday that torture has worked. He told Fox News that his "sort of overwhelming view" is that torture has been "absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives, in preventing further attacks against the United States." The torture, he said, has "worked very, very well."

It's amazing. This guy's credibility was shredded years ago, yet he still gets air time; indeed, his latest assertions were shredded before he even taped his Fox appearance.

A CIA Inspector General's report on the Bush administration's interrogation policies, authored in 2004 and finally released last week, identifies a series of "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented" tactics, and fails to offer any conclusive evidence that such tactics yielded information that saved American lives.

In fact, the author of the CIA report stressed this point in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last Tuesday. In the words of former Inspector General John L. Helgerson, "You could not in good conscience reach a definitive conclusion about whether any specific technique was especially effective, or (whether) the enhanced techniques in the aggregate really worked."

Even Frances Townsend, who served as the Bush team's homeland security adviser, conceded on CNN the other day that the CIA report offered no documented evidence that torture worked. As she put it, "It's very difficult to draw cause and effect...The report doesn't say that."

Yet whereas the CIA inspector general said that he could not demonstrate "in good conscience" that torture yielded information that saved American lives, Dick Cheney was granted air time yesterday to once again stray far beyond the parameters of empirical evidence - and to demonstrate that, on this issue, he is actually far to the right of Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan, after all, who signed and championed the UN Convention on Torture, which decreed: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Fox News didn't challenge Cheney on any of these points. Chris Wallace didn't ask him about the CIA Inspector General's comments, or Townsend's comments, or Reagan's legacy. By contrast, we had this scintillating Q&A exchange about the Justice Department's decision to launch its torture probe:

Wallace: "You think this is a political move, not a law enforcement move."

Cheney: "Absolutely."

Fox News critics are happy these days with the advertising boycott campaign against Fox host Glenn Beck - specifically, the news that roughly 40 advertisers have either pulled their spots from Beck's show or refuse to sponsor him. But Beck is merely one of the more extreme manifestations of the Fox formula. There will always be plenty of advertisers who have no qualms about indulging Dick Cheney's fabulist impulses.