Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Insight into the Cheney-Bush Presidency

The Imperial Vice Presidency

In Salon, Sidney Blumenthal reviews the recent series on Dick Cheney in the Washington Post. Blumenthal recalls that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first running mate, John Nance Garner, once said his office of Vice President was “not worth a bucket of warm piss”. Under Cheney, that's basically the value to which George Bush has been consigned.

Blumenthal describes a typical scene in which Cheney would enter the Oval Office with a draft of an executive order in blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal. Bush would pull out a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. This cavalier trust of Dick Cheney would outrage Bush's senior cabinet officals such as Colin Powell and John Ashcroft. But they didn't understand that, informally, authority flowed from Cheney to Bush from the very beginning..
Cheney has crushed the normal interagency process that permitted communication, cross-fertilization and cooperation at the sub-Cabinet level through all previous modern administrations. At the same time, he has isolated Cabinet secretaries, causing them to be fired when they contradicted him. . . . Cheney thrives in darkness, operating by stealth within the government, and makes a cult of secrecy.
Blumental recalls to mind how Joseph Stalin ascended in the USSR by virtue of his role as Secretary-General of the Communist Party which allowed him to control personnel.
Cheney has acted as the Stalin of the Bush administration, the master of the bureaucracy, eliminating one rival after another, ruthlessly and unscrupulously concentrating power, the culmination of a more than 30-year career.

. . . . Rather than transcending the executive, Cheney has deranged it in his effort to remake it into a branch of government of unlimited, unaccountable power. The head of the search committee who chose himself to be the experienced vice president to a callow president saw in George W. Bush his opportunity radically to alter the place of the executive within the federal government, which he had been straining to do . . . Cheney has viewed recent American history as a struggle between the imperial presidency necessary in a brutish world and the naive, undependable and in some cases disloyal constraints of Congress, the press and the judiciary. Under Bush, Cheney has shaped the presidential prerogative, acting as "an entity within the executive branch."

. . . .Even as the spotlight shines on the opaque Cheney, the light reflects on others as well. By shielding Bush from alternatives, Cheney has locked in certain decisions that Bush stubbornly defends as his own. The president's plight is not that of a removed ruler tragically kept from knowing what his government is doing in his name. He has had time to observe the consequences. He is aware of what Cheney says to him. The Decider decides that Cheney will decide what the Decider decides. This is not a case of if-only-the-czar-knew. In the seventh year of his presidency, Bush's decision making consists of justifying his previous decisions.
And, going forward?
. . . . Despite the recent round of punditry that Cheney's influence has waned, he remains a formidable force. These are Cheney's final days; this is his endgame. He will never run again for public office. He is freed from the constraints of political consequences. He now has no horizon. He lives only in the present. He is nearly done. There are only months left to achieve his goals. Mortality impinges. Next month, he will have his heart pacemaker replaced. He disdains public opinion. He does not care who's next. As Cheney said on Fox News on May 10,
We didn't get elected to be popular. We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party.
There hasn't been a day in the last four and a half years, when I haven't wondered why my delusional fellow Americans elected this dysfunctional duo into our nation's highest office.