On Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney attacked Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to open a probe into allegations of CIA detainee abuse, saying it was a political move that would jeopardize national security. Meanwhile this Sunday, senators debated the effect of Sen. Edward Kennedy's passing on health care reform.
Cheney: Using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Was a Good Policy
"It's clearly a political move; I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing this," Cheney argued on "Fox News Sunday." "The fact is the Justice Department has already reviewed the inspector general's report five years ago, and now they're dragging it back up again ... supposedly to try to find some evidence of wrongdoing by CIA personnel."
Cheney said this move would hurt U.S. national security, because of the effect it would have on CIA personnel's willingness to undergo risky future CIA missions.
"If they're now going to be subject to being investigated and prosecuted by the next administration, nobody's going to sign up for those kinds of missions. It's a very, very devastating, I think, effect that it has on morale inside the intelligence community."
Cheney also said the Obama administration should ask the former Bush-Cheney administration for advice on national security, instead of investigating its decisions.
"I guess the other thing that offends the hell out of me is we had a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from al Qaida," he said. "The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, 'How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?'"
McCain: Torturing Harmed Us
Cheney said he was aware of "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on detainees as a "general policy" and categorically defended their use.
"Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all of the al Qaida members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States. It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well," he said.
"We've gone for eight years without another attack. Now, how do you explain that? The critics don't have any solution for that."
GOP Senator John McCain agreed with the VP that a probe should not be launched at this point, and said he worried about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA, and about the investigation "getting out of control" and "harming our ability to carry on the struggle" with radical Islamic extremism. But he also said torturing harmed the U.S.
"I think torturing harmed us," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I have a number of anecdotes that could substantiate that. And I think it harmed our image in the world, but for us now to go back, I think, would be a serious mistake. At the same time, we can assure the American people that it will never happen again," he said. McCain has been a vocal critic against detainee abuse, having been captured, detained and tortured during the Vietnam War.
"I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan. I think that these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaida recruit. I got that from an al Qaida operative in a prison camp in Iraq who told me that. I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And so -- and I believe that information, according to the FBI and others, could have been gained through other methods," he said.
Health Care: 'What Would Teddy Do?' Evokes Partisan Interpretations
Meanwhile, on health care, with reform riding on a compromise in the Senate, heavyweights and close Kennedy friends Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Chris Dodd, D-Conn. debated the impact of Kennedy's death on the future of health care reform.
"I think, perhaps, his passing will reinvigorate people to get it done," Kennedy's niece and first lady of California Maria Shriver said on NBC's "Meet the Press" of her late uncle's dream of health care reform.
However, on ABC's "This Week," Hatch and Kerry, two of Kennedy's closest friends in the Senate, gave differing interpretations when asked "what Teddy would do" over health care reform. Kerry said Kennedy would have fought for the public option, while Hatch said he would have balked at the costs of health care reform.
"He would fight for it, and he would do everything in his power to get it, just like he did for the minimum wage or like he did for children's health care, et cetera," said Kerry.
"When Medicare is $38 trillion in unfunded liability, and then they want to take $400 billion or $500 billion out of Medicare, I mean, come on, this doesn't make sense. And Teddy would have recognized that," countered Hatch.
However, both men agreed Kennedy would have found a solution.
"But if he didn't see the ability to be able to get it done, he would not throw the baby out with the bathwater. He would not say no to anything because we have to reduce the cost. We have to make these changes. And he would find the best way forward," said Kerry.
"We used to get in tremendous fights, he and I, but we would always come together in the end. And it was always because both of us were willing to go to the center. And sometimes he would go to the center-right," said Hatch.
Kerry, Dodd Say Compromise Possible, GOP Senator Staying on Costs
On CNN's "State of the Union," Dodd, who served in Kennedy's stead as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, expressed a desire to find a bipartisan solution, while Hatch held fast to the sticking point of how to pay for reform.
"Every bill I can think of, of any major significance, people sit down and work it out. We'll get back next week with the leadership of the president, and people who want to sit down and move forward," Dodd said. "[Kennedy] would be terribly disappointed if we allowed partisan politics to dominate this debate. He expected more of us, and I think we ought to meet that expectation of his, and I'm confident we can."
But when asked on CNN whether a bill with a public option would pass the Senate given Kennedy's passing, Hatch fixated on its costs.
"I really don't think so," Hatch said. "You're talking about having the federal government take control of health care when Medicare's $38 trillion in unfunded liability, and going higher. And then you add the public plan on to that, or what I call the Washington-controlled government plan, that's what's got people all over this country concerned."