Lunch with Vice President Cheney. Part 1

So they hadn’t made a mistake. They intended me to be there. Wow.

Now I have to be honest with you guys. I’m just me. I don’t view myself as anything special. I’m just a guy with a laptop who has strong opinions on various subjects.

And they wanted me there surrounded by the Vice President, his chief of staff, Liz Cheney, Paul Gigot, Kate O’Beirne, Jay Nordlinger, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, and a few others. All of us sitting around the dining room table eating roasted chicken with asparagus and potatoes.

Me. I lead a weird life. This is neither something I expected nor something I view myself deserving, and yet there it was.

But this is not about me. This is about him — about Dick Cheney, the great, private conservative leader who whispers in the President’s ears. The untold story of this administration, and one that I asked him about with very little success at getting an answer (to be honest, my question was poorly formed as it is a difficult topic), is that Cheney has been the great conservative influence at the White House.

Solid, credible, dependable sources on Capitol Hill, both staff and elected leaders, tell me Cheney is the guy who they go to when they White House goes wobbly. It’s Cheney who calms the waters and straightens the spines.

“My job in its purest sense,” he explained, “is advisory. The nature of the job I have is that I’m not in charge of anything. . . . I advise the President. But I can’t talk about it.” He said if he did talk about it, he would no longer be asked for his advice. The private nature, however, causes suspicion, particularly in this political age. He said he believed that, after 9/11, the first obligation of the administration was to make sure we did not get hit again. “That meant making tough decisions.” A lot of those decisions, in order to be successful, had to be highly classified. Secrecy was important to have a successful policy, but it played right into the ‘Cheney is secretive’ image. None of that helped his image. But they saved this country.

And that’s just it. There are still people in this country who think we’re not fighting a war. They think we can just arrest and prosecute the bad guys. Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld thought otherwise. History will show they were right. They were.

For almost eight long years after 9/11/2001, we were not attacked at home. We were safe at home. Men, not boys, made tough decisions that they stood by. They did not back down. Many people don’t like that they did not back down. Many people on the wrong side of history don’t like their aggressive prosecution of the Global War on Terror. But they’ve kept us safe. “At the end of eight years, we don’t get a lot of credit for what didn’t happen,” Cheney said matter of factly. No one ever does.

Cheney pointed out that had we gone the judicial route many on the left wanted (and the prior administration had engaged in), we’d have never gotten the information we got from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. A prosecutor could not have made him squeal like a pig. But he was not arrested and prosecuted. KSM went through enhanced interrogation and still sits at Gitmo.

As an aside, people forget how little we knew about Al Qaeda before and immediately after 9/11. We had no freaking clue who they really were or what they were all about, other than some propaganda pieces that had all the directorial and cinematographic value of amateur porn.

So the men came up with enhanced interrogation. KSM went through it. And they broke him. He provided valuable and accurate information on Al Qaeda — who they were, where they came from, how they were funded, how they were weaponized, etc. He formed a “basic database”, as the Vice President calls it, of key knowledge needed to fight them.

And had those who opposed enhanced interrogation — Cheney says the word “torture” is thrown around with reckless abandon — had their way, it would have taken a hell of a lot longer with many more American lives lost to get to a position where we could effectively root out Al Qaeda in secret missions few of us to this day know about.

Cheney is unapologetic as he should be. It was a fascinating lunch.

I’ll have more tomorrow in Human Events and more here tomorrow too.