Liz Cheney: When Your Dad is 'Darth Vader'
What do you do when your father’s been pilloried but you’re convinced his policies will be vindicated by history? If you’re Liz Cheney, you help him write a memoir, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, in the hope of setting the record straight.
While working on the book, did you learn anything about your father that surprised you?
I asked him if he was angry when Al Gore retracted his concession during the 2000 election. He said, “Not really. I felt more like it was amateur hour at the Gore campaign. You know, they didn’t have to concede that night. There’s no rule that you have to. So I felt if it had been a professional operation, they would have waited. The fact that they did concede ended up hurting them throughout the recount.” That was very surprising to me. He has an ability to step out of situations that involve him and look at them analytically.
How have your thoughts about the Bush administration evolved?
A lot of what has happened since [they left] has vindicated the decisions they made. President Obama has kept Guantánamo Bay open. Some of the controversial -programs, like the terrorist-surveillance program, are still going on. President Obama made the decision to surge troops in Afghanistan. Frankly, it’s become clear that a lot of the policies [my dad and President Bush] adopted are necessary for keeping the country safe. The big change, of course, was with enhanced interrogation [such as waterboarding, a practice Obama has ended]. My dad played a big role in 2009 in getting documents declassified that showed that those programs generated intelligence that saved lives and prevented attacks.
What does the killing of Osama bin Laden under President Obama’s watch mean in the context of your father’s and President Bush’s policies?
Our ability to find and kill bin Laden is really [due to the fact] that a lot of people worked very hard for a lot of years, especially our intelligence community and our Navy Seals, who went in and did it. They deserve credit, and certainly President Obama deserves credit for making the decision to send those Seals in. I think it was the result of years of work and a very good decision by President Obama.
You were a high-ranking State Department official under George W. Bush. What’s your take on recent events in the Middle East?
I think it’s very complicated. The early days of the revolt in Egypt, where you saw young people holding their smartphones in the air saying, “These are our weapons,” that’s very positive. But now we’re seeing some groups that are not interested in true democracy who are taking advantage of the vacuum. I have been pretty dis-appointed in this administration’s ability to deal with these challenges.
Should we be doing anything with the Saudis regarding women’s rights?
We should be pushing them. We should be standing up behind these women who are now driving. One thing that the Bush administration worked on and that I worked on is empowering women in the Middle East and sending the mes-sage that when you teach a woman to read, you are teaching her whole family to read. These are policies that have been continued by the Obama administration.
What do you think of the current Republican presidential field?
I think we have a good one. But I am worried about the national-security position of the Republican Party. We have a number of candidates who want to adopt an isolationist approach. It’s understandable that people are war weary. And with the economy as bad as it is, people are very worried about defense spending. But I think it is a dangerous and naive approach to believe if we simply bring our troops home, the threat will be over.
What do you think of Michele Bachmann?
She was one of the best on this national–security issue in the [June] debate. I find her very impressive. As a mother of five, I like to see someone else with five kids out there, throwing her hat in the ring.