Thursday, June 28, 2007

Making It Happen

In all the discussion of Dick Cheney’s interventions in policy debates and executive decisions, the obvious lesson is that Big Dick Unit of the CheneyBush presidency GOT THINGS DONE. He effectively used the most powerful presidential attribute: attention. When the president asks, everyone scurries to answer, big time. Cheney had the authority to be in on EVERY decision and Washington knew it. He made things happen just by showing up in a variety of ways. Yes, his results have been pernicious and truly evil but, remember, process is morally neutral–it works in either direction. The vice-president worked the system to get what he wanted. Remember that when you hear wails and laments about gridlock in Washington that prevents action.

Cheney mastered the process. If I were him (a chilling, depressing thought), I would take great satisfaction in the Washington Post series. I would see it as a record of accomplishment. Cheney paid close attention to the issues the concerned him most, an approach similar to Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt, two presidents who also paid much attention to the workings of government. Like Cheney, they could reach down into government to find information and pressure points. The difference is stealth and secrecy. When FDR and LBJ set out to remake America, they were (mostly) open about what they were attempting to do. Dick Cheney led a policy revolution, fundamentally re-interpreting American values with little or no public debate. What “debate” occurred was often manipulated with lies and distorted “evidence”.

Like LBJ and FDR, Dick Cheney leaves a distinct legacy, not one that I would choose over his two predecessors, but a legacy nonetheless. Unlike LBJ and FDR, Cheney’s accomplishment is not his alone. He shares it with George W. Bush, the president who empowered him. Hence, we have CheneyBush and an America fundamentally changed for the worst.

If the conservatives’ Holy Grail for a half century has been dismantling the New Deal and Great Society, then the liberal goal in the next years will be dismantling the National Security Super State created by Dick Cheney.

I expect Congress to begin the process immediately. Yesterday’s subpoenas are a good start. I just hope it won’t take a half century.

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