October 29, 2005

Cheney: A Diminished Figure

More military men join the McCain bandwagon (Update: Brad's permas are down: scroll down to his Oct 28 post entitled "The Traditions of the Military"). Doubtless they are, to the man, America haters, no? Or so the gaggles of cheap pro-torture apologists will argue. Pity there is not an unimpeachable, above the fray wise man to finally take Dubya aside and wake him up to the dishonor his detainee policies have brought on the nation. 10 years ago, it might even have been Dick Cheney--reining in the excesses, say, of a Don Rumsfeld. Today, alas, Cheney is one of the architects of the morally bankrupt, failed detention policies of this administration. Somewhat relatedly, don't miss Jeffrey Goldberg's article in the New Yorker on Brent Scowcroft. I've got issues with some of Scowcroft's musings, of which more later, but I do agree with him here:

The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney," Scowcroft said. "I consider Cheney a good friend -- I've known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore.

More and more people are starting to feel this way in establishment Republican ranks, one detects of late. Cheney did catch the 'fever' after 9/11, as Powell memorably put it, and it's high time he got his temperature back down a few degrees. A good start would be ceasing to oppose the McCain Amendment. I don't have high hopes, however. Cheney appears to be adopting something of a bunker mentality, and apparently finds it impossible to admit any mistakes. Thus talk of 'dictionary meanings' to explain away the 'last throes' crapola (half a year old now), or breezy descriptions of Guantanamo as a splendid little enclave in the 'tropics' (migrating Gitmo tactics more or less directly led to the outrages of Abu Ghraib). And now the Libby fiasco. Rather than a sense of distinguished solemnity from Cheney (after all, why couldn't they just have gone after charlatan like Joe Wilson and left his wife out of it?), instead surreally bogus video of him giving a speech at a 'friendly' military base--during the very moments Fitz is skewering his loyal, long-serving aide before the world. Can we not be spared such farcical theater? No, all this is simply not a record to be proud of. I had tremendous respect for Dick Cheney through the 80's and 90s. No more. But, and infinitely more important, President George H.W. Bush's best friend has evidently lost much respect for his old colleague and friend too. Cheney should engage in some soul-searching, and ask himself why. To be sure, crusty realist Brent Scowcroft is no omniscient saint. He's made errors in judgment aplenty in his time, as we all have (most notably, for me, Scowcroft showcased too much realist insouciance re: the horrors of the wars of Yugoslav succession). But Scowcroft at least is saying out loud what many have only been whispering: Cheney's so key role in navigating the ship of state doesn't provide the same comfort and confidence it did just a few years back. People are worried. And, with apologies to distinguished intellectuals, a steady diet of Bernard Lewis and VDH doesn't necessarily provide, dare I say it, the requisite nuance to navigate such things as the generational challenge of democratizing the Arab world (hint: nettlesome little things like the Arab-Israeli peace process matter too, and Arabs don't only react to the language of force or some such). Anyway, for now, Libby has fallen on his sword and Cheney soldiers on. He'll tap a Libby replacement and keep plowing along just fine, doubtless, though it is possible the Fitzerald going-ons may yet prove increasingly awkward for him going forward (especially if there is a trial, or (unthinkable!) Libby squeals some to reach a plea bargain that avoids jail time). At very least, however, the veneer of the indomitable, Hercules-like Veep is no more. Cheney is a diminished figure. And so, of course, is the man he serves.

Posted by Gregory at October 29, 2005 08:58 PM | TrackBack (0)

Libby won't squeal -- Andover boys never squeal, and never admit mistakes: Libby, Bush 41, Bush 43, Bremer, and our own favorite son, Mr. BD himself...

Posted by: Nils at October 30, 2005 05:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A quick reminder of a salient fact here: Dick Cheney is the only Vice President of the last 100 years and probably the only one in the history of the Republic about whom a post like Greg's could possibly have been written. 42 Presidents would not have considered giving the vast, unchecked and evidently also undefined authority President Bush has given Cheney to the one official in the government they could not fire. Bush has varied from the historic practice because he is a historically weak President, his weakness deriving from his personal laziness and disinterest in the business of government.

Posted by: JEB at October 30, 2005 10:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad DeLong's post is here.

Posted by: fling93 at October 31, 2005 08:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The troubling part of the torture issue no one seems to want to go near has to do with results. The people who gave the go ahead had to know that in doing so there could be repercussions. So at one point there had to be an assessment of the ends justifying the means and therefor the risk involved in permitting them.
Also - it doesnt seem likely that if the method of interrogation was not producing results that the method would be continued.
I'm repulsed at the thought of us torturing anyone. But I'm not sure how repulsed I'd be upon learning such tactics saved thousands of Americans.


Posted by: Mike at November 1, 2005 01:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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