Is Dick Cheney deranged?

I am not a psychiatrist but I am not being facetious when I pose this question. It is quite incredible to watch Dick Cheney defend the torture that he and George W. Bush authorized and encouraged and to see someone who is dead wrong and yet be dead certain that he is dead right. His defenses of the indefensible are so bizarre that I honestly think that he shows signs of being detached from reality because the things he says seem to go well beyond mere attempts at self-justification and well into delusional territory. There is a deranged quality to the way he calmly and matter-of-factly says the most appalling things.

We know that people can become unhinged in particular ways due to some event and I am beginning to think that the events of 9/11 has resulted in some form of brain damage that has made him truly paranoid. Just watch the things he says and the way he says it in this set of clips of Cheney down the years. Jon Stewart’s last line is priceless.

(This clip aired on December 15, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

As Conor Friedersdorf says of Cheney:

Once 9/11 happened, Dick Cheney ceased to believe that the CIA should be subject to the U.S. Constitution, statutes passed by Congress, international treaties, or moral prohibitions against torture. Those standards would be cast aside. In their place, moral relativism would reign. Any action undertaken by the United States would be subject to this test: Is it morally equivalent to what al-Qaeda did on 9/11? Is it as bad as murdering roughly 3,000 innocent people? If not, then no one should criticize it, let alone investigate, charge and prosecute the CIA. Did a prisoner freeze to death? Were others anally raped? Well, what if they were?

If it cannot be compared with 9/11, if it is not morally equivalent, then it should not be verboten.
That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by the Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take al-Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.

Now that Cheney is stating all this explicitly it must be rejected as moral madness. Torture was the ticking time bomb. It exploded. And a city on a hill was destroyed. I hope it is rebuilt in time for my unborn children to grow up in a place that abhors torture, regarding it as a dark curiosity perpetrated by history’s villains.

We’ve got a long way to go.

Friedersdorf thinks this is moral madness. But could it be actual madness? Seriously, has this man gone round the bend? If he does not technically meet the definition of being insane, then he is a psychopathic liar, which is not a great improvement.


  1. says

    Friedersdorf thinks this is moral madness.

    Nonsense. It’s just how unrestrained power acts, once it realizes it has no need to restrain itself. It’s a feedback loop of learned behavior. He’s learned he can get away with anything, basically. So he’s acting that way. It’s perfectly rational in that context.

  2. bmiller says

    I would note that in the Iraq War the United States has cumulatively did far far worse than 911 to Iraq and its peoples. So even by his evil and deranged standards, he is utterly wrong.

  3. says


    I know people who have mental illness, and they deserve consideration for their disorder -- it’s not their fault. Cheney is not disordered -- saying he’s “deranged” or “crazy” or whatever, almost amounts to apologizing for him, because it’s tantamount to arguing it wasn’t really his fault.

    I think he’s an incredibly rational and utterly selfish human being -- one of the worst examples of humanity, right up there with other rational monsters like Henry Kissinger and William McNamara.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    George W. Bush, thank you for not dying while in office.

    I am not aware of any shred of evidence that Bush disagreed, then or now, with anything Cheney said or did since 9/11. Cheney is just providing a fig leaf for Bush’s reputation, and I’m surprised Stewart seems to buying into this BS.

  5. Katydid says

    I found I’d forgotten just how horrible Cheney was. Those 8 years were very, very dark times for America.

  6. Trebuchet says

    This is a man who was able to shoot his friend in the face and get the friend to apologize for it. I wonder how much he’s paying Scooter Libby to keep his mouth shut.

  7. dean says

    Dick Cheney is not deranged -- he simply thinks he is the smartest and most important man in the room.
    And remember, this is the man who actively sought, and received, 5 draft deferments between 1959 (when he became old enough for the draft) and 1967 (when he turned 26), said (to a writer for the Washington Post) “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.”, and then took it upon himself to belittle John Kerry’s military service.

    No, he’s not deranged -- he is, very simply, not a decent person.

  8. says

    This is a man who was able to shoot his friend in the face and get the friend to apologize for it.

    In fairness, he was probably just emulating Napoleon Bonaparte, who shot Marshal Massena in the face on a hunting expedition, and blinded him. Napoleon, at least, wasn’t shooting at caged birds, and had a history of physical bravery (e.g. the battle of Arcola)

  9. samgardner says

    We don’t let people claim madness when they murder someone because the devil told them to, so I don’t know why we should even think of allowing Dick a moral claim of madness here. He’s not mad… just evil.

  10. aashiq says

    I see nothing deranged about Cheney. If you see evidence of a disease (think ebola) you cast a wide dragnet, and innocent people get locked up, and you don’t stop unless there is evidence of a “cure” or complete containment.

    Cheney thinks Islam is like ebola, and 9/11 needed a long-term and broadening response, a long war, and that the threat is existential. Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, he did not see that at the start this was a small group under bin Laden, and them by giving them status he merely turbocharged their recruitment and allowed them to scale.

    Others have self-corrected, but Cheney is staying the course. There are lots of people who I am sure still agree with him….this is what is truly frightening.

  11. md says

    Mano, im not being facetious when I ask you the following: Yesterday Pakistan killed some dozens of Taliban in an ambush. Its being reported as a retaliation for the attack on the school that killed a hundred plus a few days back you probably heard about. They didn’t spray water up anyone’s nose, didn’t feed them in a bizarre manner or keep them awake for a couple days, Pakistan killed 60 or so Taliban (not sure how many Taliban attacked the school but reports seem to indicate 3-5 people) -- no questions asked. Is that deranged behavior in your view? Is the Pakistani military detached from reality?

  12. Mano Singham says


    My speculation about Cheney’s derangement is not because he authorized the most awful things. That just makes him despicable, just like what the Taliban did makes them despicable.

    What makes me think he is deranged is his ability to flatly assert what is manifestly false, over and over again.

  13. Forelle says

    Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills

    Tangential, yet I can’t resist. Over the years I’ve seen quite strange comparisons to don Quixote, but really, Dick Cheney exceeds some limit. Don Quixote had very strong morals and always acted with the deepest sympathy and compassion towards his fellow beings. He was brave in the noblest sense of the word. Please don’t compare him again with such horrid people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *