There is something reassuring about the battering that Vice President Dick Cheney has taken in recent weeks. Finally, it appears, the Washington intelligentsia is waking up to the reality that has been obvious for years to thinking Americans: The most powerful vice president in American history is a deeply dishonest and an even more deeply dangerous man.
Cheney has been taking hits from all sides ever since his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted for lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury. Lewis has been linked to a scheme to destroy the reputation of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, the man who exposed the lies on which the Bush-Cheney administration based its "case" for invading Iraq.
The indictment of Libby mentioned Cheney's name repeatedly and in the most compromising of circumstances: as one of the first people to mention to Libby that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative and as a participant with Libby in sessions where schemes were hatched to "respond" to Wilson.
Even before the smoke had cleared from the Libby indictment, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who had served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, charged that Cheney and his allies had hijacked U.S. foreign policy - often without the knowledge or consent of President Bush. Recalling his service during the Bush administration's first term, Wilkerson charged: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."
Using an approach that Wilkerson described as "not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy," the colonel argued that Cheney's cabal had "produced a series of disastrous decisions" - policymaking - with disastrous consequences for America.
Then, as if to confirm Wilkerson's observation, Cheney was exposed as the federal government's primary proponent of the use of torture. In an attempt to counter a congressional move led by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to ban cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, Cheney pressed lawmakers to exempt the CIA from the new standard.
Amid revelations that Cheney's office had long been the administration's chief advocate for the use of torture, former CIA Director Stansfield Turner has labeled Cheney America's "vice president for torture." Declaring that "I just don't understand how a man in that position can take such a stance," Turner labeled Cheney "reprehensible."
The vice president lived up to the description after U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Cheney immediately suggested that the old soldier had lost his "backbone."
But Murtha wasn't giving Cheney any ground. Recalling the vice president's determined efforts to avoid serving in Vietnam, the congressman said, "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and (have) never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
Cheney lost that round, as he has most rounds in recent months.
If this keeps up, President Bush might yet come to recognize what most Americans already well understand: Dick Cheney is too crooked, too cruel and too crazy to be allowed to continue warping this country's policies. And if Bush doesn't recognize the need to get rid of Cheney, Congress should.
© 2005 The Capital Times