prince hal and falstaff, or was it...

The New York Times famously hasn't apologized for its role in promoting the Iraq War, except for the standard "we were wrong in the way so many others were wrong" manner. And there are various ways not to apologize. One is for your chief White House correspondent to write a book analyzing the "complicated" and (yes) "Shakespearean" relationship between Bush Jr and Cheney in an ethical vacuum verging on open admiration.

Recently PBS discussed that book and invited me to be on the show via webcam for the perspective of someone outside "the usual DC circle jerk," as Gwen Ifill put it in her invitation to me. Excerpts from the transcript follow.

GWEN IFILL: And now to a look at a complicated partnership between President George W. Bush and his vice president, a relationship that shaped more than a decade's worth of war and politics.

TM (via webcam): To the detriment of all of us.

GWEN IFILL: That's the focus of a new book, "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House," by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

Judy Woodruff talked to him recently.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Peter Baker, thank you for joining us.

PETER BAKER, The New York Times: Thanks for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: An exhaustively reported book, a wonderful read. Congratulations.

PETER BAKER: Thank you. I appreciate that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you write that Vice President Cheney wasn't the puppet master, President Bush wasn't the pawn. And if that wasn't their relationship, then what was it?

PETER BAKER: It was much more complicated than that.

TM (via webcam): Yadda yadda yadda. Let's move on.


JUDY WOODRUFF: And you do write, though, in the first term in particular, the vice president very influential with the president. But I want to -- specifically about the Iraq war.


JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of that was the president and how much of that was the vice president? Would it have happened if it hadn't been for the vice president...


JUDY WOODRUFF: ... and the secretary of defense?

PETER BAKER: I mean, that's the great question. Right?

TM (via webcam): You mean in the sense of who contributed more to the debacle?


PETER BAKER: In July of 2002, seven, eight months before the actual invasion began, Cheney and Rumsfeld went the president and said, you need to go ahead and attack Iraq now, because there's a chemical weapons facility in Northern Iraq, and Bush said no.

So there were moments where Bush kind of resisted the train and said, no, we are going to do it my way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet -- and yet there were also moments when President Bush was going around the world making sure everybody was comfortable long after the vice president was absolutely certain this was the right thing to do.

PETER BAKER: Yes, yes.

TM (via webcam): Except it was the wrong thing to do.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What -- why did President Bush grow to be less dependent on the vice president?


The evolution of their relationship is really fascinating. It's really almost Shakespearian,

TM (via webcam): Let's just end this right here. Gwen? OK to cut to commercial?