"Whitehouse officials do interviews with radio reporters; it’s like a big carnival right outside the whitehouse with a giant tent." That's how Juan Williams describes the scene on yesterday's Morning Edition. Apparently favored reporters get special treatment, because as Williams tells it, "in my case though, I was invited to go into the Vice President’s office in the West Wing."
Most of the interview is transcribed at the NPR site and it's really a sad piece of journalism. Focusing on the current violence in Iraq Williams asks, "if the generals are telling you the right information about what they need" to which Cheney -- of course -- says they are great generals who are giving good advice. Here Williams might have followed up with statements from some of the dissenting generals who know what happens to good advice, but instead he just asks timidly, "So they're not telling you what you want to hear, you don't think?" Cheney answers "No."
Williams then questions the quality of intelligence gathered in Iraq and lets Cheney get away with saying "And obviously there were problems with intelligence in Iraq early on." For informed journalists that's a hanging curveball right over the plate. Williams just freezes and watches it go by. No challenge about how Cheney falsified, distorted, and cherry-picked ("fixed") intelligence to launch the war on in the first place.
One of the hardest moments of the interview to stomach was - ironically - the part where Cheney talked about stomachs. Williams has asked Cheney about his criticism of Democrats and use of the phrase "cut and run," and in responding Cheney says, "What the enemy's banking on is that they can break our will, that the American people don't have the stomach for the fight." Williams just sits there and lets this lying chickenhawk say this with no challenge--not once but twice! (For more on Cheney's strong stomach Williams might want to read here.)
Probably what is most frustrating are all the questions that are never made: Cheney's manipulation of intelligence, his insistence on the al-Qaeda link in Iraq, his role in torture and providing cover for torturers, and his grossly distorted assessments of progress in Iraq. Williams would do well to watch PBS's Frontline on Cheney before he meets with him next time--that is if he can find the time when he's not running around the Fox studios or ducking into the Whitehouse sideshows.