Cheney on the Iraq War -- and Nixon's Pardon
In an interview in Oman last Wednesday, Vice President Cheney told ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz that it does not matter that a majority of Americans think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, saying that the administration will not be "blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls." In a follow-up interview with Raddatz yesterday in Turkey, Cheney compared decision-making on the Iraq war to President Gerald R. Ford's decision to pardon former president Richard M. Nixon for the Watergate scandal:
The president of the United States, under these circumstances, dealing with these kinds of issues, can't make decisions based on public opinion polls; he shouldn't. . . .
I had the experience, for example, of working for Jerry Ford, and I've never forgotten the travails he went through after he had been president for 30 days when he issued the pardon of former president Nixon. And there was consternation coast to coast.
The president had to go up -- chose to go up before the Judiciary Committee of the House and testify in order to put down the rumors that somehow there had been a deal between he and President Nixon, that if he would pardon Nixon, then he would get to be president himself. I rode up there with him that day and sat in the hearing room while he answered all those questions. I know how much grief he took for that decision, and it may well have cost him the presidency in '76.
Thirty years later, nearly everybody would say it is exactly the right thing to do, that if he'd paid attention at the time to the polls he never would have done that. But he demonstrated, I think, great courage and great foresight, and the country was better off for what Jerry Ford did that day. And 30 years later, everybody recognized it.
And I have the same strong conviction the issues we're dealing with today -- the global war on terror, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that all of the tough calls the president has had to make, that 30 years from now it will be clear that he made the right decisions, and that the effort we mounted was the right one, and that if we had listened to the polls, we would have gotten it wrong.