Salon.com ran a brilliant piece by Sidney Blumenthal about Dick Cheney today, “The imperial vice presidency.” Thoroughly fascinating exploration and summary of the Washington Post series that we spoke about earlier in the week. Seeing it all summed up so neatly in one place left me with a feeling of fascination — the kind I used to feel in my adolescent days, perhaps, for Hitler. I know it’s easy to toss the “H-word” around, and we do it all too easily in the media and elsewhere. But, at some point, we study Hitler almost as if his actions never impacted us – as if we live elsewhere, not on planet Earth. How could one of those humans, one of those animals, become so powerful, and do so many horribly ungodly things?
Plenty of food for thought, and an exercise in futility, perhaps. Many hours in the dorm room lost to such feeble yet at the time seemingly important discussions.
Indeed, how could Hitler become so powerful?
He scares me now. He never did before. Before I let the Washington Post sink in, before I permitted Salon.com to sink in, I relegated Cheney to the comedians — Jon Stewart somehow helped me cope. Letterman made me laugh at it all. Colbert made sense. I could laugh at Cheney, and then go on with my day, my week, seven years or so. I could sleep at night, content that reason would someday prevail, and the long nightmare of the Bush presidency would finally end.
But not any more. The man is dangerous.
Just a small selection:
Cheney has crushed the normal interagency process that permitted communication, cross-fertilization and cooperation at the sub-Cabinet level through all previous modern administrations. At the same time, he has isolated Cabinet secretaries, causing them to be fired when they contradicted him, as he did with Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill.
Cheney thrives in darkness, operating by stealth within the government, and makes a cult of secrecy. None of these insights are new, except for additional telling details. Reports the Post: “Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped ‘Treated As: Top Secret/SCI.'”
“Cheney thrives in darkness…?” What the hell does that mean? He is a man so ruthless that even John Ashcroft objected to his ethics:
Of the Bush Cabinet secretaries, former Attorney General John Ashcroft most strenuously confronted Cheney about his seizures of power. Ashcroft was perhaps the most conservative member of the Cabinet, and it was out of a sense of his own constitutional obligation that he objected. When Ashcroft discovered that John Yoo, the deputy assistant in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had been recruited by the Cheney operation to write memos on detainee policy that would deny any role in the new legal process to the Justice Department, he was outraged. At the White House he confronted Cheney and Addington. “According to participants [at the meeting],” the Post reported, “Ashcroft said that he was the president’s senior law enforcement officer, supervised the FBI and oversaw terrorism prosecutions nationwide. The Justice Department, he said, had to have a voice in the tribunal process.” But Cheney did not relent. Ashcroft received no meeting to discuss the matter with Bush. Cheney was the gatekeeper — the decider for the Decider.
Indeed, the Decider is a puppet. Cheney is King. And he doesn’t care. Damn the torpedoes. Damn the Democrats. Damn the Republican Party. Cheney no longer has to care:
Despite the recent round of punditry that Cheney’s influence has waned, he remains a formidable force. These are Cheney’s final days; this is his endgame. He will never run again for public office. He is freed from the constraints of political consequences. He now has no horizon. He lives only in the present. He is nearly done. There are only months left to achieve his goals. Mortality impinges. Next month, he will have his heart pacemaker replaced. He disdains public opinion. He does not care who’s next. “We didn’t get elected to be popular,” he said on Fox News on May 10. “We didn’t get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party.”
Cheney is worse than I ever imagined.