Thursday, June 28, 2007


No one would describe Dick Cheney as lean and hungry these days but if you look at some if the early photos (the ones where he has hair) of him in the Washington Post series, he does look determined and serious. The photos (which I can't figure out how to upload or link to) remind me of Caesar's comment to Marc Anthony in Shakespeare's play,

Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Act I, Scene 2, The Life and Death of Julius Caesar


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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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Big Dick

The Washington Post series on Dick Cheney is a testament to the power of position, knowledge and will. The articles clearly demonstrate the locus of influence in the Bush Administration and more than justify my appellation, CheneyBush, when I refer to the president. As a long time observer of government and politics, I marvel at his ability to influence policy and effectively control the decision-making process. The George W. unit may be “the decider” but, as the Post notes, the Big Dick unit makes up the menu. Not so much a puppet master as programmer and controller.

Cheney’s influence and success are nothing new. Many others have used some variation of his approach, which combines mastery of detail with organizational leverage. It’s the kind of control a strong, successful president would exercise himself through a network of trusted, dedicated assistants. In this administration, Dick Cheney performs this function while a lazy figurehead takes all the “credit” for policies implemented in the president’s name.

I make no secret of my disdain and distrust of Dick Cheney but I cannot deny his success. He’s learned the system, has gathered a coterie of sharp, intelligent people to assist him and has outplayed virtually everyone in Washington in the past six and a half years. No mean feat. Certainly not a task for the lazy, uncertain or faint of heart.

Of course, power and success are morally neutral, their worth being subservient to the purposes to which they are employed. I can appreciate the accomplishments of Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln because of their legacies. I am less certain of Dick Cheney’s legacy, which consists largely of American aggression and contempt for the rest of the world, serious diminution of Constitutional rights and economic policies that concentrate wealth in a few at the expense of many.

Cheney is said to be wholly unconcerned with his image; he is secure in knowing that he is right. He can point to FDR and Lincoln as his companions in doing what is necessary to protect America and often reviled for doing so. Unlike FDR and Lincoln, Cheney’s actions are not a matter of necessity but rather a clear plan to change the nature of government in this nation from an open to a closed system wherein the few will decide for the many. Even worse in my opinion is that little of what he advocates actually helps this nation. Case in point: Iraq.

As I think about others who have pursued Cheney’s route to power and influence, the one model that keeps coming to mind is Joseph Stalin. That’s an ugly, brutal comparison but, like Cheney, Stalin used his position of Party Secretary to make contacts, control agendas and expand his influence. The party’s great intellect, Leon Trotsky, dismissed Stalin as a mere functionary, only to learn later that Stalin had outmaneuvered him in the battle to succeed Lenin. Cheney’s opponents have learned a similar lesson about the Office of the Vice President in the past few years.

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