By Dan Froomkin
11:40 AM ET, 05/28/2009
Newly loquacious former vice president Dick Cheney was on TV again yesterday, warning grimly of the enormous dangers the country faces from President Obama's plans. The new twist: He was talking about the economy, instead of national security.
Chatting with CNBC's Larry Kudlow, (here's the transcript), Cheney echoed Kudlow's concern that Obama's budget deficits will cost the country its credit rating, and he came this close to calling the president a socialist.
Kudlow: "[S]ome conservatives say Mr. Obama is a socialist or a socialist-light, and he's running socialist type policies. Do you agree with that criticism?"
Cheney (smiling): "Well, I agree with the criticism without using the labels.....
"[W]hat we've been seeing, though, and what's been advocated by the president and what looks to be in store if he's successful is that we're seeing a vast expansion, not only the power of the federal government over the private sector, but also in terms of spending. Massive, massive amounts of new spending and presumably new taxes to pay for it that I think will do fundamental, long-term damage to the country. And I do think it's a more liberal agenda, if you will, than any in recent memory."
But Kudlow, normally a pushover interview for Cheney, actually tried to make the former vice president take some of the blame for Obama's unprecedented interference in private enterprise.
Kudlow: "But, in truth, isn't it fair to say that many of these policies, central planning policies, command and control interference policies, whether it's socialism-light or European market social kinds of policies, they really began under the Bush-Cheney administration, did they not? I mean, after all, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are under government ownership 80 percent. That began under your administration. The first General Motors loan began under your administration. And, of course, the great TARP program to allegedly prop up the banking system, which has turned out to be partly bank ownership, we don't know the last story on that.... All these things really began under your administration. At what point President Bush, I believe, said we have to--we have to stop--we have to suspend free market capitalism in order to save free market capitalism. What's your take on that? How much blame of this shift to the left do you think the Bush-Cheney administration bears?....Did you anticipate how Congress would move in to take control of the banks when you made these initial loans?
Cheney: "No, I don't believe we did. I don't recall any debate within the administration. There may have been some over at Treasury or someplace that focused on the extent of which government would try to control these institutions once they provided financing for them."
After the interview, Kudlow crowed that he had gotten Cheney to admit that he and Bush hadn't fully thought things through.
Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus writes that "Cheney's speech at the American Enterprise Institute [last week] was so chockfull of faulty arguments and rank misrepresentations that it's worth taking the time to review them, in their multiple incarnations."
And Salon's Gary Kamiya is upset that Obama didn't sufficiently distance himself from Cheney in his speech that same day: "By tacitly accepting Cheney's terms -- by shamefully proposing that we detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without real trials, or by refusing to release photographs of Americans torturing people in their control -- Obama has enabled and encouraged our diffuse national cowardice....
"Obama has tried to lead America out of the shadows of the Bush years. He has projected a calm optimism, a reasoned determination, that is a breath of fresh air after the puerile, bullying bravado of George W. Bush and the dark, croaking counsel of his evil courtier Cheney. And he has said inspiring things about the importance of defending our laws, rights and traditions, even in the face of terrorist threats. But because Obama has failed to directly reject the irrational boogeymen his predecessors whipped up, and because he has continued many of their policies, he has not been able to spring us from their dank culture of fear."