"It’s a terribly hard job to spend a billion dollars and get your money’s worth."
     -- George M. Humphrey, U.S. Treasury Secretary, February 23, 1954.
"According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."
-- Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Defense Secretary, September 10, 2001.


The Shadow Knows
Posted February 5, 2007 | Link

Now that the Scooter Libby trial is fully underway, the public is starting to get a clearer view of the lengths that Vice President Dick Cheney was willing to go to in order to protect his precious invasion of Iraq. In a softball piece this weekend, the Washington Post described the shadow that Cheney is casting over the entire proceeding by appearing to be the main conspirator behind the Valerie Plame Wilson exposure, as well as the only person in the White House, save maybe Karl Rove, who actually took a conscious, coherent course of action.

The problem I have with this dull reporting, aside from its epic tardiness, is its extreme naďveté (whether intended or unintentional) regarding President Bush’s so-called acceptance of Cheney’s role. The ongoing assumption in these pieces, laughable as it may be, is that Cheney is some sort of rogue advisor to our cocksure president, and that Bush must be either steaming mad or blissfully unaware of just how far his veep has stepped over the line. Although this fantastical reasoning might appeal to the ten percent of the population that still supports the notion that Bush is capable of anything other than making bad jokes over a couple or twelve beers at a Rangers game, it certainly doesn't play in Peoria.

First of all, consider the American presidents that we have had since World War II. To a man, each has been sized up and approved by the top one percent of the population who owns and runs this country, both before and during their tenures. Kennedy, who effectively deviated from the script that he faithfully followed otherwise, was shown the door in dramatic fashion. Nixon was likewise ejected, but in a more pedestrian manner. Clinton, for the most part, played his part beautifully, but still managed to self-destruct on cue. Unfortunately, his poison pill didn’t please the right side of the aisle, which managed to divert more than $100 million in taxpayer funds towards a sensational <cough> probe that introduced the term 'oral sex' to millions of young children on the evening news.

Enter George W. Bush. It is impossible to imagine Bush as either a civic-minded youth dreaming of the presidency as a child, or as a competent career politician winding up in the Oval Office after a lifetime of merit-based promotions up the political ladder. In fact, he was selected for the presidency, first by the one-percenters who appreciated his ability to play a rube that couldn't outsmart city folks, and second by a Supreme Court dominated by five people doing their God's work. However, like Ronald Reagan before him, Bush accepted the role of a lifetime and decided to run with it. Alas, he became confused before even taking his first step.

Luckily, there was Dick Cheney. Cheney, a lifelong political devotee of the privileged sector, had been rewarded for his efforts during the early 1990s by being made the CEO of a billion-dollar company, in spite of having approximately zero experience in corporate management. This was hardly a coincidence. As the former Secretary of Defense, Cheney had launched the outsourcing tidal wave that ultimately bestowed more than 2,700 contracts on Halliburton. It is not surprising then, that as CEO, Cheney was able to rake in millions of dollars that he claimed as 'compensation', but that average Americans would describe as 'bribery'. The vast majority of Cheney's current net worth, in the neighborhood of $100 million, was derived from just five years of stewardship at Halliburton. Perhaps, to him, this was more like back pay (payback?) for eleven unexciting years as a Wyoming congressman.

So, when the baffled Bush and the cunning Cheney hooked up in 2000, it was immediately clear who would play the role of father and who of son. Cheney was allowed (asked?) to pick the entire Cabinet, and then conveniently installed himself as the Vice President in charge of directing this same team. After the inauguration, Cheney also took the lead on foreign policy and energy matters, including the instigation of the infamous National Energy Policy Development Group before the end of January, 2001. The NEPDG, a secretive group that planned the Iraq War with the big oil boys 'just in case', was so important to Cheney’s game plan that he fought for its extralegal privacy, successfully, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Just in case other global citizens didn't care for our aggressive energy plans and decided to do something about it, Cheney was also put in charge of 'Domestic Preparedness Against Weapons of Mass Destruction'. Coincidence that, considering that Cheney also had a hand in creating the Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative (neofascist?) group that agitated for the war Bush and Cheney were elected to provide. I thought only the Cosa Nostra was able to sell both violence and protection from violence in the same sales pitch.

The Vice President’s domination over the Executive is so strong that even foreign dignitaries understand that getting quality time with America means talking to Cheney, more so than our petulant President. Our decider-in-chief cannot even go to the bathroom without consulting Cheney; the most appalling example being Bush's testimony before the 9/11 Commission. As you may recall, Bush, the man who promised to "uncover every detail" when forming the Commission (a commission that was, inexplicably and sadly, created more than a year after the crime) first refused to speak with them at all, but then finally succumbed to public pressure to do so after the following conditions were met:

  • He would only testify with Cheney,
  • Bush (and Cheney) would not take an oath before testifying,
  • Bush (and Cheney’s) testimony would not be recorded (electronically or otherwise) and that any notes taken would not be made public.

And so on, and so forth. Since day one, Cheney has been the de facto president, running the country on a political and tactical basis since the 2000 election, while Bush plays the point-man and takes the heat. There is much granularity to this statement, as Cheney certainly has help from friends at Defense and State, as well as Rove and various loyal staffers at the White House. It may also be that part of Bush's apparent frustrations have to do with his cognitive dissonance over Cheney's virtual power-hold on all matters of importance. Nonetheless, Bush seems to understand his role and the vital part he plays in facilitating Cheney's actions. In truth, Bush's eminent annoyances probably stem more from the fact that the rest of the country isn't reading from the same libretto.

So, where will the Libby trial head now? Will Cheney be found out and dutifully impeached like any other politician would be in a country that practiced democracy or had a backbone? The first answer is easy. Libby will either be found innocent on a technicality (or an appeal; same thing really), or convicted and then later pardoned. The pardoning angle is more likely, since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and Bush Lite's administration already has several pardonees from his father's crooked capers.

The latter question is equally easy. No impeachments will occur and Cheney will exit the corporate <cough> political stage in 2008. He will live out the remainder of his years with a bad ticker and a $100 million nest egg, minus the millions that he will bequeath to his ideological brothers (a.k.a., tax shelters). In the end, Americans will continue having a hard time deciding whether Cheney was the true culprit behind Bush's shenanigans or just another capo in a larger organization. In many ways, it doesn't really matter. After all, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

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