Why Cheney Really Is That Bad
Karl Rove, interchangeably known as "Boy Genius" or "Turd Blossom," has left the White House. The press conference announcing his decision to resign has been given front-page treatment by most major media outlets, but the fact of the matter is the buzz surrounding Rove's departure is much ado about nothing, especially in terms of coming to grips with the remaining 16 months of the worst presidency in the history of the United States.
Rove is a domestic political marauder, the personification of a conservative movement which lacks a moral compass and has a complete disregard for facts. The master of exploiting mainstream America's predilection for news-as-entertainment, under which the likes of Rupert Murdoch can manufacture headlines out of thin air, Rove helped turn "fair and balanced" into a national joke which everyone laughs at but few actually comprehend. Rove served as the maestro of a political-smear orchestra composed of such intellectually challenged muckrakers as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, manipulating the NASCAR/professional wrestling crowd's addiction to seedy gossip in an effort to maintain the all-important 51 percent majority needed to win elections.
Perhaps if the Democratic Party had possessed a semblance of organization and cohesion (not to mention a post-Clinton message that could be sold to a majority of America), then Rove would be but a footnote in history, known simply as the man who helped the worst governor in the history of Texas get elected. Even the self-destructive campaign run by Al Gore in 2000, in which he distanced himself from a sitting president who, despite all of his faults, would have defeated Bush in a landslide if the Constitution permitted a third term, was enough to deny Rove his beloved 51 percent-it was Gore, not Bush, who won the majority of votes in that contest. It took a Republican governor of Florida, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, to put George W. Bush into the White House, not any genius on the part of Rove.
"Bush's Brain" may claim that it was his careful manipulation of fiction over fact that carried the 2004 election, in which the term "Swift-boating" became synonymous with political character assassination, but it was the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq which sank the Democratic Party and its candidate for president, John Kerry. It is very difficult to unseat a president in a time of war, especially when so many Democrats voted in favor of the concept, first by buying into every post-9/11 policy put forward by the Bush administration (find me one Democrat who actually read the Patriot Act in its entirety before it was voted into law) and second by rubber-stamping the lies that led to Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. Remember, it was Kerry's inarticulate defense of his decision to vote in favor of granting war powers to the president that sank his election hopes, not his Vietnam War record.
Certainly, Karl Rove played a significant behind-the-scenes role in supporting Bush's war policies. The perjury trial of "Scooter" Libby forced the collective of deaf, dumb and blind pseudo-journalists who populate what is known as the mainstream media in America to recognize how pathetically duplicitous and petty the Bush administration could get when it came to defending the policies propping up the so-called Global War on Terror and the awful tragedy of Iraq. Rove's fingerprints were all over the decision by Vice President Dick Cheney to leak CIA officer Valerie Plame's name to the media in an effort to thwart the truth-telling of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.
But that is about as deep as Rove's involvement in the two issues that will define the presidency of George W. Bush gets. While Rove might be the "genius" behind the kind of winner-takes-all dirty politics that won the Republicans a majority in Texas (and brought down the likes of Tom "The Hammer" DeLay), he was way out of his depth when it came to the reality of national security policy. Unlike unsubstantiated rumors of wrongdoing which can stain a political opponent's record for the brief moment needed to gain political advantage, regardless of what the actual truth is, the never-ending flow of dead American service members from a war based on a foundation of lies cannot be overlooked indefinitely, even by the most subservient of media outlets.
Try as Rove and his political operatives might, one cannot forever suppress the images of flag-draped caskets, row upon row of white grave markers sprouting up in cemeteries across America, or the thousands of wounded veterans left to rot in hospitals, forgotten by an administration that, with few exceptions, never knew war and used the military as an electioneering prop. Eventually, those patriotic Americans who were fooled into believing there was actually some coherent planning behind the global conflict Bush had dispatched their youths to fight and die in were bound to get wise. Rove never had the depth needed to navigate such serious waters.
Being the Brain of the most vapid, intellectually shallow president ever creates an apt epitaph for Rove's tenure at the White House. The Bush administration has never won accolades for its substance. Its best frontman, Colin Powell, self-destructed in front of the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. Powell's nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, followed suit shortly thereafter, unable to coherently explain where Saddam Hussein had hidden all those WMD we went to war for, and ultimately telling the average foot soldier to pound sand when it came to the lack of adequate equipment needed to fight and survive in occupied Iraq. Bush's singular appeal has been the impression of steadfastness in the eye of the storm, even if the storm is for the most part self-created. For this we must look not to "Bush's Brain," but instead peer deep into the dark recesses of the White House, where we can glimpse the awful "soul" of the president-Dick Cheney.
The vice president is the single greatest threat to American and international security in the world today. Not Osama Bin Laden. Not the ghost of Saddam Hussein. Not Ahmadinejad or Kim Jung Il. Not al-Qaida, the Taliban, or Jose Padilla himself. Not even George W. Bush can lay claim to this title. It is Dick Cheney's alone. Operating in a never-never land of constitutional ambiguity which exists between the office of the president and the Congress of the United States, Cheney's office has made its impact felt on the policies of the United States of America as had no vice president's office before him. Granted unprecedented oversight over national security and foreign policy by executive order in early 2001, many months prior to the terror attacks of 9/11, Cheney has single-handedly steered America away from being a nation among nations (albeit superior), operating (roughly) in accordance with the rule of law, and toward its present manifestation as the new Rome, a decadent imperial power bent on global domination whatever the cost.
The absolute worst of the rot that has infected America because of the policies and actions of the Bush administration has originated from the office of the vice president. The nonsensical response to the terror attacks of 9/11, seeking a "global war" versus defending the rule of law at home and abroad, taking the lead in spreading the lies that got us involved in Iraq, legitimizing torture as a tool of American jurisprudence, advocating for warrantless wiretappings of U.S.-based communications (regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says against illegal search and seizure), and pushing for an expansion of America's global conflict into Iran-all can be traced back to the person of Cheney as the point of origin.
America today is very much engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the forces of evil. The enemy resides not abroad, however, but at home, vested in the highest offices of the land. Neither Osama Bin Laden nor Saddam Hussein threatened the life blood of the United States-the Constitution-to the extent that Cheney has. Not Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Ho Chi Minh. Not since the American Civil War has there been a constitutional crisis of the magnitude that exists today, threatening to rip the very fabric of American society apart at the seams, courtesy of Dick Cheney.
That Congress today remains relatively mute on this crisis is one of the great mysteries of our time. Perhaps the vagaries of national politics can be blamed. The Democratic majority in Congress appears to have ceded its leadership role to unelected presidential candidates who seem solely empowered to comment on current events, domestic or foreign, and who, out of fear of any misstep which could hurt their chances to seize the White House as their own, refuse to actually take a substantive stand against the policies of the Bush administration. In an effort that is curiously Rovian in the quest for electoral victory, the Democratic candidates (with a few notable exceptions) have been less than bold in their opposition to the heinous policies that are currently in place concerning Iraq, Iran, the war on terror, torture and constitutional violations-unless you count empty rhetoric.
In many ways, the leading Democrats, both those running for office and those currently holding office, are a far greater insult to American values than the conservative standard-bearers for the policies of Cheney. No one of substance takes seriously the manic ranting of the Hannity/Limbaugh/Coulter triad. These Democrats, on the other hand, have mastered the art of compromise to the point that they stand for nothing at all-this at a time in American history when the policies of the administration, derived from the dark abyss of Bush's soul, Cheney, provide the most concrete example of what we as Americans should be standing against.
The Democrats need to stand for something. Cheney has provided the sort of political ammunition that would enable them to fight, and win, a constitutional battle over the heart of America, the kind of defining struggle which I believe the vast majority of Americans would rally around. Unless the Democrats start separating themselves from the policies of the Bush administration, and take an active role in outing and suppressing the true evil that is Dick Cheney, all they will achieve in the coming years is a change in the titular political orientation of America, without the kind of deep-seated break from the failures and crimes of the past six-plus years that have taken our nation, and the world, right up to the edge of chaos.
"Bush's Brain" may be gone, but his "Soul" lives on. It is high time all of America put Dick Cheney fully in the spotlight of collective accountability, purging our nation of this scourge which has harmed us in so many ways. If there is any case for impeachment to be made against any member of the Bush administration today, it can be made against a vice president who has shamed our nation, destroyed our moral standing and broken our laws.
Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) , "Target Iran" (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, "Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement" (Nation Books, April 2007).
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