Dick Cheney: “They Don't Call Me Darth Vader for Nothing”

The ghost of SNL’s George W. Bush caricature seemed to be hovering over Dick Cheney Monday afternoon, warning him against his recent media availability, as the former vice president took the stage at the National Press Club’s annual Gerald Ford Journalism Awards.

Cheney presented awards to two outspoken critics of the Bush administration. US News & World Report columnist Kenneth T. Walsh received the annual award for outstanding coverage of the presidency, and James Kitfield of the National Journal took the award for outstanding coverage of national defense.
Following the awards ceremony -- which was founded on Gerald Ford’s idea that “a free and unfettered press is vital to a democratic nation” -- a notion that the Bush Administration has largely been accused of rejecting, NPC Vice President Alan Bjerga led a question and answer session with Cheney.
The questions, which were submitted by members of the press and C-SPAN viewers, addressed a number of controversial issues that have followed Cheney from the White House and onto network soundstages during his recent media blitz.
When asked whether he still supports his claim that waterboarding is not torture, Cheney replied that the guidelines on interrogation were laid out by the Justice Department. “There were three people who were waterboarded; that’s not too many ... and it was done under the surveillance of the CIA.... I think it was very well done,” he said.

A number of attendees complained that Cheney’s responses were not as direct as the questions.

"The gaps and deferrals in Cheney's speech and responses are overwhelming," said ex-White House and Congress spokesman Bob Weiner. "His speech today and his other recent appearances leave huge holes and questions about his role in waterboarding, torture, wiretapping, U.S. attorney-firing and Iraq decisions including WMD."
However, Cheney was surprisingly candid on certain issues.
In response to a question about recent legislative action that allowed gay couples to wed, Cheney broke from Republican party ranks in support of gay marriage at the state level:
"I think freedom means freedom for everyone. As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish... the question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that the historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level... I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. ... But I don't have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that."
Cheney was equally open in his criticism of the current administration.
“President [Obama] made a mistake to issue an order to close [Guantanamo Bay] ... it’s not easy to shut down Guantanamo... and he does not have a clue as to how to go about doing this.”
Cheney reiterated his call for Obama to declassify documents detailing the results of "enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees."
“I’m not usually one to charge for the declassification of classified documents -- they don’t call me Darth Vader for nothing,” Cheney quipped. "I thought it was important to have the results that were gained from that interrogation program front and center...."
Bjerga closed the session with the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Does Dick Cheney consider himself to the most powerful vice president in U.S. history? 
“We’ll leave that judgment for history,” he chuckled. “But I will say that a lot of credit goes to President Bush ... when he asked me to be his Vice President ... he promised that I could dig through whatever I wanted to dig through.”
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