Not Enough Bell Jars

Dick the Dick has slithered out from wherever he keeps himself and offered his opinion on Iraq. The widespread reaction from news media has been, “Really, Dick? You went there?” So that’s something. He even caught a hard time from Megyn Kelly.

[Update: I didn’t see the Megyn Kelley encounter myself; apparently it wasn’t as tough as was hyped.]

Yet I understand the old neocon crowd is turning up on the teevee. Apparently they still think they are owed a victory parade.

Back in 2006 I wrote a post called “Save Us From CEOs” which is more or less about the phenomenon of high-level executives and politicians who are pathologically incapable of perceiving their own failures. Dick and his pal Shrub are featured prominently, and I think it holds up pretty well.

The problem is that, as a species, we seem always to allow the self-confident, assertive types to be in charge whether they actually know what they’re doing, or not. I don’t think this is a new thing (see, for example, the Civil War and General George B. McClellan). The Dickster is such a perfect example of such a specimen that for a time “Dick Cheney” became a kind of euphemism for “arrogant clueless empty suit.” See also “The Agony of Dick.”

Watching Dick parade his magnificent lack of self-awareness today is both fascinating and horrible, like watching pythons trying to swallow alligators. He’s wrapped himself in so many layers of bullshit I doubt there’s a force on this planet that could get through to him that he failed.

The Agony of Dick

Everybody is talking about Dick the Dick’s exploding head book. I take it it’s mostly a work of fiction, since Dick’s recollection of events doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s. All kinds of people with firsthand knowledge of events are coming forward to say Dick is just making stuff up.

But IMO the single most interesting semi-revelation from the book is the degree to which Dick was the acting head of the Bush Administration during Bush’s first term — which we knew — but not the second term.

Jefferson Morley, analyzing Cheney’s self-aggrandizing account, says Cheney portrays himself making foreign policy and cabinet decisions without even consulting the President. He seems to have assumed Bush would approve of his decisions without having to ask.

But the reign of Cheney ended in 2006. Morley writes,

In November 2006, Bush fired Rumsfeld without asking for the vice president’s opinion. For the first time in five years, Bush started making key decisions on his own.

Cheney’s account turns petulant at this point. After 2006, no one in the Bush administration (besides Cheney) can do much good. The new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mistreated two top generals. Secretary of State Condi Rice was so eager to reach an agreement with North Korea she issued a public statement that was “utterly misleading.” And President Bush had failed by acting on her recommendations, not his.

Get this —

“The process and the decision that followed seemed so out of keeping with the clearheaded ways I had seen him make decisions in the past,” he writes with surprise.

What had changed was that Cheney no longer dominated the process of presidential decision-making on foreign policy. He was merely the vice president.

Very sick.

This is from ABC News

He reserves much of his ire for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now Powell and his longtime aide and chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are attempting to set the record straight. In no uncertain terms. Cheney, Wilkerson told ABC News, “was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration” and “fears being tried as a war criminal.”

Again, Dick was president during the first term, but not the second one. In foreign policy, Condi took his place. Not that she was much of an improvement.

BTW, you might remember that Bush asked for Rummy’s resignation not because of some failure in Iraq, but because Republicans had just been slaughtered in the 2006 midterms. Karl Rove would resign the following August. The Bush White House was in some kind of meltdown by then, it seems, and Bush appears to have changed his mind about who to trust. It’s water under the bridge now, but someday the real history of the Bush Administration will be written, and I suspect the last three years were especially surreal.

See also “Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney.”

Good Advice From the Right

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Righties are leaping on the word of several people quoted in the article that the program was never “fully operational.” As far as they’re concerned, that means the whole thing is a non-issue. But of course, they lack the moral courage to face the issue.

The issue is that in the days after 9/11, the unidentified program was devised, and Cheney made the decision to conceal it from Congress, in violation of the law. Planning and training for the program began in 2001 and continued until this year, presumably when Panetta found out about it and shut it down. All we know about the program is that it did not involve domestic surveillance or interrogations. Even if the program was never fully operational, it was an ongoing activity that should have been reported at least to the “Gang of Eight” per the National Security Act of 1947, says Jonathan Turley.

Scott Shane continues,

In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration’s most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.


Then, of course, there was the role played by that other guy in the Cheney Administration:

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Reports are that President Obama doesn’t want to “look back” at the crimes of the Bush Administration, because this would distract from the enormous domestic agenda he is trying to push through. There are reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a prosecutor to investigate torture ordered by the Bush Administration. I hope so, but I’m not going to hold my breath until he does.

So what is the “good advice from the Right,” per the title? I give you Reliapundit from THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, a “global group blog” for people with damaged keyboards stuck in caps lock. Anyway, Mr. R says,



What we’re really dealing with is a steady drip of disinformation from the far-right “think tanks,” astroturf organizations and the various wingnut mouthpieces, scattering scare stories and lies about “socialized medicine” to frighten Congress and the American people from doing what needs to be done. I want the American people to know the truth about President Obama’s health care and energy proposals, but since it’s just about impossible to get the truth out over the screams and lies of the Right, maybe we should go the other way — pull a Karl Rove, as it were — and use investigations of the crimes of the Bush Administration to keep the Right busy so that actual work can get done. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

Related: In an absoluely stunning display of cognitive dissonance, one rightie proclaims “Dems Leak Secrets To Cover Pelosi’s Lies.” You can’t make this up.


Greg Sargent:

The White House has decided to declassify and release a classified 2004 CIA report about the torture program that is reported to have found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots on American soil — directly contradicting Cheney’s claims. The paper cites “allies” of the White House as a source.

Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the “holy grail,” because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works — and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives.

Of course, anything the Obama Administration does triggers howls of protest from conservatives. Nor do I think release of such a document would cause Dick Cheney to go away, because I think Dick slipped his tether to reality some time back.

Say Good Night, Dick


So, what are your reflections on these last eight horrible years, as our wreck of a country struggles to emerge from the dark machinations of these malicious sociopaths? My view is along the lines of Jim Kunstler‘s:

To me, GWB will remain the perfect representative of his time, place, and culture. During his years in Washington, America became a nation of clowns posturing in cowboy hats, bethinking ourselves righteous agents of Jesus in a Las Vegas of the spirit, where wishing was enough to get something for nothing, where “mistakes were made,” but everybody was excused from the consequences of bad choices. The break from that mentality will be very severe, and we may look back in twelve months and wonder how we ever fell for the whole package. The answering of that question will occupy historians for ages to come.

Kunstler’s take doesn’t begin to capture the horror I felt, of living through these last eight years, of watching much of the country go mad. Like waking up one day in a coast-to-coast version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I remember the shock of seeing nearly everyone around me lose their minds, believing in ever more stupid things announced from on high. What was truly frightening was envisioning the trajectory of where this national insanity could take us. Didn’t we have a Constitution or something to protect us from this, or a media that would finally come forward and tell us what was really going on? The whole experience taught me how fragile the achievements of American civilization really are, and how easily and silently they can be lost (and in some cases are still lost). Fortunately the force of this madness eventually peaked, but not without huge, debilitating costs, that have yet to be fully reckoned.

But enough of my own dark memories, what are yours? What are your plans for January 20th?

My brother and I are getting together to commemorate a number of things: the New Year (belatedly), the new administration of course, and our departed mother’s birthday (Jan 20). She was a life-long New Deal Democrat and would’ve been pleased with Obama.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Darth CheneyWhile the psycho-pathologies of our President have become frighteningly evident over the last few years, those of the man “who decides what the Decider decides” are still very much cloaked from public view, presumably in an undisclosed location. Susan Douglas explains in Is Cheney Evil or Just a Weasel?, that when we liken Dick Cheney to evil itself (or dress him up in a black robe with a light sabre), we affirm his power as a bully, instead of undermining it.

With profuse apologies to Blue Oyster Cult.

The Devil and Dick Cheney

You know the Veep is in trouble when he’s lost David Broder. “[W]hen presidential candidate George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate, I applauded the choice. … Boy, was I wrong.”

Truly, there’s not much lower Dick can sink. I checked to see if Hugh Hewitt had turned on him yet — that would be, I think, absolute rock bottom — but I found no recent Hewitt postings on Cheney. Yet. Even really stupid rats will get off the sinking ship before they drown.

Do a news google for “impeach Cheney” and you get an eyeful. Coming at a time when the Bush Administration faces mutiny over immigration, it can truly be said the White House is (finally) under siege from all sides. Some parts of the Republican Party are still trying to provide a buffer, of course, but the GOP is starting to look like the last defenders of the Bastille.

Raw Story reports that this morning the White House asserted “executive privilege” and said it would not turn over documents related to the firings of federal attorneys. I believe we’re still waiting for a response to yesterday’s subpoenas regarding the warantless wiretap program.

My understanding is that if the Administration refuses to comply with subpoenas from Congress, Congress has to go to a federal court to get the subpoenas enforced. If a court rules the Administration must comply, the White House can appeal, and fish around for federal judges who will allow them to continue to operate outside the law. That’s how the Dickster was able to avoid turning his energy task force records over to the General Accounting Office, for example.

I assume the White House can appeal this all the way to the Supreme Court. Yeah, that’s so … not reassuring. Judging in part by how the voting went in Bush v. Gore, in which Kennedy, O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas voted to stop the recounts, I can see the votes falling the same way they did during the recent Carhart decision — Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas supporting the White House; Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens upholding the law.

Right now, this nation is as close to totalitarianism as it has ever been. Closer, probably.

What if the White House exhausts all appeals and still refuses to turn over the subpoenaed documents? I honestly don’t know what the next step might be. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. How might they be forced to comply? There have been many times in American history in which some or all of the three branches of government were at odds with each other, but the extreme behavior of the Bush Administration is taking us into uncharted territory.

An appeal process could drag on for months. The Bushies might run out the clock. Or, if it is resolved late next year, Congress might decide to spare itself from sending law enforcement agents into the White House to enforce the subpoenas.

Even so, I sincerely hope all appearances of criminal behavior will be investigated, and the perps brought to justice eventually. As long as it takes. That means it’s essential to seek no pardon pledges from all our Democratic presidential candidates.

And, David Broder — shut up and listen to us dirty bleeping hippies next time, OK?

Essential reading — don’t miss Sidney Blumenthal’s essay, “The imperial vice presidency,” in Salon today. See also “Impeach Cheney: The Vice President Has Run Utterly Amok and Must Be Stopped” by Bruce Fein in Slate and “Cheney and the National Security Secrets Fraud” by Scott Horton at Harper’s.

Also — I realize Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney last April. Does anyone have a link to the exact document that Kucinich submitted to the House? I ran into one commenter who said that Kucinich’s bill, while well-intentioned, did not introduce the strongest reasons to impeach Cheney. I’d like to read it myself before I comment.

Then What the Hell Is It?

From the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

Dick: There are three branches of government. Those are the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Constitution puts the Vice President’s office in the executive branch. If you aren’t part the executive branch, then what branch do you think you are in?

Please, Dick, answer the question. This is fascinating. I really want to know what you think.

As described in a letter from Chairman Waxman to the Vice President, the National Archives protested the Vice President’s position in letters written in June 2006 and August 2006. When these letters were ignored, the National Archives wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in January 2007 to seek a resolution of the impasse. The Vice President’s staff responded by seeking to abolish the agency within the Archives that is responsible for implementing the President’s executive order.

I want to reassign the lot of them to this branch.