Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher use a discussion of the Iran-Contra Affair to show why Dick Cheney is the center of all evil in the universe. (Not really, but kinda’).
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Maddow and Maher tied it all back to Dick Cheney (Partial transcript via MSNBC):
Maher: And they liked Reagan. When he made that statement they kind of went, oh, yeah, I get it. He’s old. He’s been shot. He means well. He’s a nice guy. You know, all that —
Maddow: I would sell weapons to the Iranians, too, I guess. A). It was a really big scandal and the senior officials are getting indicted, people are going to prison. George H.W. Bush had to pardon everybody, and George W. Bush hired them back. It was a really big scandal and in trying to tamp down the scandal, the thing that is most important for the overall thing that I’m writing is Reagan’s administration is trying to save his butt. We’re talking about Nixon earlier, the way that Nixon explained what happened in Watergate is well, if the president does it, it’s not illegal.
Maddow: The Reagan administration defense for Reagan at the end of the Iran-Contra is, if the president does it and it’s vaguely related to national security, it’s not illegal. It’s this radical idea that President Reagan, yes, defied Congress knowingly and, yes, he defied congress and all sorts of crazy lies and the weapons to the Iranians and, yes, it’s very clear that he knew it was all happening. But he’s the president and it’s war-related vaguely. And the president has unlimited power when it comes to things that are vaguely war-related and that’s nuts. That’s absolutely nuts. It was a crazy idea, and it was seen as a crazy idea at the time. Congress did their investigation of Iran-Contra and they are like, yeah, that’s crazy.
There was a dissent to Iran-Contra. There was one report that said actually that crazy line about how the president doing it, it’s by definition legal, the president can do anything related to national security with no legal constraint without having to consult anybody and do it in private and it just doesn’t matter? The one person who said actually I believe that is a Wyoming congressman named Dick Cheney. Which didn’t mean anything when he was just the Wyoming congressman named Dick Cheney. He went on to be secretary of defense, vice president, and that became, again, what should have been an aberration became normal. It never should have survived anything other than that scandal.
Besides being the most fun that anyone has ever had discussing the Iran-Contra Affair, Maher and Maddow brought up a really great point. These events don’t exist in a vacuum. What the Reagan administration was able to get away with in Iran-Contra laid the groundwork for the Patriot Act, spying on American citizens, GITMO, and waterboarding. Who knows what a future administration will do when they build on the expanded executive powers that the Bush administration gave itself.
It isn’t surprising that Maher and Maddow were so entertaining. It was nice to see both of them out of their television formats and enjoying a broader discussion. As we get ready for another presidential election, their point should not be lost. Judgment and character matter, and our choices if we don’t pick wisely (like we did in 2000 and 2004) could have history changing consequences that may not become evident until decades later.