Former Vice President Dick Cheney is widely seen as the most powerful vice president in American history. He’s also perhaps the most polarizing. To conservatives, Mr. Cheney was President George W. Bush’s wingman – the trusted adviser who helped keep the nation safe after the 9/11 attacks. To liberals, he is Darth Vader, the malevolent power behind the throne.
Today, Cheney is retired, living near Washington in McLean, Va., and enjoying his books and his grandchildren. But his views are just as sharp as they were when he held office. James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, recently sat down with Cheney for an extended interview – six hours spread over three days. Playboy magazine has published excerpts.
Here are five highlights:
Cheney thinks Barack Obama is 'the worst president in my lifetime.' The question wasn’t, “What do you think of President Obama?” He was asked to assess the president’s handling of Al Qaeda. Cheney, unsurprisingly, pans Mr. Obama’s performance on that issue – then keeps going.
“I think the threat is growing steadily, and I think our capacity to deal with it is rapidly diminishing,” Cheney said.
“I look at Barack Obama and I see the worst president in my lifetime, without question — and that’s saying something. I used to have significant criticism of Jimmy Carter, but compared to Barack Obama and the damage he is doing to the nation — it’s a tragedy, a real tragedy, and we are going to pay a hell of a price just trying to dig out from under his presidency.”
Cheney cries “race card” on Obama and Eric Holder. Mr. Rosen noted that Obama and Attorney General Holder have suggested that racism is a factor in criticism of them. Cheney’s response: “I think they’re playing the race card.”
“To say that we criticize, or that I criticize, Barack Obama or Eric Holder because of race, I just think it’s obviously not true,” Cheney said. “My view of it is the criticism is merited because of performance — or lack of performance, because of incompetence. It hasn’t got anything to do with race.”
Cheney believes Obama has endangered national security.
"The way Obama is functioning now, he's crippling the capacity of future presidents to deal with future crises," Cheney said. "It takes a long time to build up that military force. And I am absolutely convinced there will be a future president — two or three times down the road, perhaps — who will be faced with a major crisis and will not have the military capability he needs to deal with it."
Cheney has no reservations about Guantanamo.
The former vice president was asked if he had any concerns that the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was allowing innocent men to languish. His response:
“Frankly, I didn’t worry a lot about that,” Cheney said. “I wanted to make certain that we had a place where we could, in fact, take guilty individuals.”
He added: “I mean, these were people we captured on the battlefield or caught in the act, and they were well cared for…”
Cheney likes lattes. In fact, he can toss back two in an hour, Rosen observes.
“They come from a stainless-steel machine in the kitchen and a slender, mustachioed housekeeper named Gus, who serves them in custom-ordered white Starbucks cups outfitted with cardboard Starbucks sleeves,” Rosen writes.