Cheney Campaigning–A Bad Thing?

Are there lobsters in Maine?

A nice piece by Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian, who thinks Cheney’s showing his contempt for Congress by swearing at Pat Leahy means he’s finally losing his cool.

The self-control that had served him so long broke down in public on June 22 on the floor of the Senate during a photo session. As Cheney was posing with members, Senator Patrick Leahy ambled over. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, had recently been critical, along with other Democrats, of no-bid contracts in Iraq granted to Halliburton, the company Cheney had run and in which he still holds stock options and receives deferred compensation (despite his prior claims to the contrary). “Go fuck yourself,” the vice president greeted him.Cheney’s spokesman appeared to deny that those words had been spoken: “That doesn’t sound like language the vice president would use.” But Cheney raced onto Fox News to hail himself as courageous for emotional authenticity. “I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it.” Then he elaborated that his ejaculation was an administration policy: “I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue.” Leahy’s seeming civility, he explained, was just a charade: “I didn’t like the fact that … he wanted to act like, you know, everything’s peaches and cream.”

Like the corporate oligarch he is, democratic opposition is an annoyance he sees no reason to tolerate, but he had always managed to hide his hatred of it under a corporate ‘nothing fazes me’ veneer that’s beginning toi crack like a Vegas lounge comic’s act on a bad night:

A main source of Cheney’s effectiveness and image of competence has been his ability to avoid putting his cards on the table. But in a moment of pique, he dropped the entire deck. His game face fell and his malicious streak broke through.

Indeed, except it’s not a ‘streak’. Cheney has been a ruthless, malicious corporate tyrant most of his adult life. He terrified underlings at Halliburton and when he was the House Whip–his only elected position ever–he cracked that whip often and hard, usually to ptotect Newt and the other newbie radcons; that was his preferred ‘management style’. Cheney brought his tyrant act with him, and it has helped make him probably the most powerful Vice President in US history. He even assumed the right to vet himself as a candidate:

In 2000, he was put in charge of selecting George W Bush’s running mate, collected the private dossiers of potential candidates and chose himself. Asked who vetted Cheney’s financial records, Karen Hughes, Bush’s communications aide, replied: “Just as with other candidates, Secretary Cheney is the one who handled that.”Bush’s executive branch has been concentrated in Cheney. He has been as powerful as Quayle was irrelevant. It was Cheney who said to UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as he embarked on his mission to Iraq: “We will not hesitate to discredit you”; Cheney who personally tried to force the CIA to give credence to Ahmed Chalabi’s fabricated and false evidence on WMD; Cheney who, along with Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld (to whom he was deputy in the Nixon White House), undermined Secretary of State Colin Powell at every turn; and it is Cheney who is the neo-conservatives’ godfather.

He has been the focal point of the whole Iraq debacle, doing much of what presidents normally do, making a lot of the decisions presidents ordinarily make, siding with the neocon cabal at every turn. There’s a lot of ammunition there for Kerry. That’s probably why there’s speculation that, albatross that he is, Bush might replace Cheney at the convention. Blumenthal says that’s a pipe dream.

Perhaps the grandest political gesture Bush could make would be dropping Cheney. When Cheney bursts through his mask, he reveals not only his own face, but Bush’s. “The idea of dumping Cheney is nuts, makes no sense,” one of Cheney’s political advisers told me. “One of the reasons he’s there is they don’t have someone to anoint as a successor.” After all, where would it leave Jeb Bush in 2008? “Dumping Cheney would be seen as a sign of weakness. Cheney is very popular in the party.” The Bush campaign’s premise depends on turning out the maximum Republican vote. Bush can no more repudiate Cheney than he can repudiate himself.

I think that last sentence is right on the money. The difference between the ‘charm’ of Bush and the quasi-totalitatian disdain of Cheney is a difference of image, not reality. Bush’s demeanor is a cover–a cover that’s also starting to crack under the strain–and an illusion, a device constructed by Hughes and Rove to get him elected that he has repudiated by every act he’s ever taken, every decision he’s ever made, and the kind of people he gathers around him and hands enormous power to. Like Cheney.

Under the skin of public appearances, they’re all telling us to ‘go fuck ourselves’.

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