My views of Dick Cheney are hopefully clear by now. So I'm not getting into the immorality of his torture stance.
But I don't think that "winning" the torture debate is his actual goal. To me, the goal of his recent charm offensive is simply to kick up enough dirt to force a "draw." That is, he wants to politicize the torture debate as much as possible -- to transform a profound debate about our country's values into just another everyday Republican/Democratic partisan squabble that makes people throw up their hands and despair of knowing "the truth."
If you've noticed, Cheney tends to pop up in the aftermath of damning evidence. We just (re)learned, for instance, that our CIA agents murdered detainees, choked them, and threatened to rape their wives. Normally, you would think these revelations would give pause to even the most ardent Cheney supporters.
But then Cheney comes along, and tries to reframe the whole story. His intended audience isn't the nation as a whole, but conservatives. He wants to make sure that they view these stories through partisan-tinted lenses.
And in this, he'll probably be successful. Ideology is such a powerful force right now on the American Right that Cheney's strategy is probably a smart one. I mean, just look at how thoroughly ideology has colored perceptions of end-of-life counseling, which shouldn't even be remotely controversial. Heck, look at how thoroughly ideology is warping virtually everything these days.
And the press facilitates this process simply by reporting what Cheney said. I'm not exactly blaming them for this -- he is the former Vice President, and you have to quote him. But the mere fact of quoting his lines and airing his attacks helps trigger the ideological defense mechanism among conservatives. They naturally want to rally to their "team's" side when they perceive that the hated Dems are attacking for political reasons.
In short, Cheney wants to transform what should a broad consensus against torture into a "he said/she said" partisan squabble. And if most conservative blogs are any guide, he's probably been successful.
[UPDATE 3:00 -- Jonathan Bernstein, who recently started a new blog, has some additional thoughts. Specifically, he argues that granting pardons might break the partisan/ideological impasse (he actually has a 3-part series on this). Not sure I agree, but welcome to the Internets!]