Back in the dim, dark days of 2000 when Dick Cheney chose himself to be Bush’s running mate out of a field of thousands, you may remember that there was some relief expressed in both the press and the blogosphere that the inexperienced lout would have a Vice President with experience and “gravitas” (remember that word?). Those of us aware of Cheney’s past and Halliburton’s present were appalled. Our counter was – “Who are we electing, exactly? Who’s going to run the show, Bush or Cheney?” We suspected that the inept Texas Gov would get run over top of by the hard-right machine of a man who’d cut his teeth in the Nixon White House and learned where the ropes-and-pulleys of power were under Reagan.
We sort of forgot that question over the next few years as Bush became the public face of every decision and Cheney hid out in his bunker, emerging only occasionally to make the rounds of the propaganda networks, Fox and CNN, to insist, in that flat, gray, voice that brooked no questions let alone dissension or argument, on the certainty of WMD’s in Iraq before retreating behind a wall of secrecy and rumors of ill health that bubbled into the public sphere through layers of leaks in a process eerily reminiscent of the last few Soviet Premiers before Gorbachev.
It seems we were right to be concerned and wrong to let Cheney escape the spotlight for so long. More than that, we underestimated the extent to which an inexperienced, not very bright president who, like a lazy middle manager in a branch bank, saw his role primarily as one of delegating responsibility to other people, was willing to turn power over to others with stronger presences and less malleable opinions.
As a result, we wound up, it seems, not with one president but with three co-presidents: Bush, Cheney, and Karl Rove.