Did you feel that? That sickly sort of rolling wave, that disquieting, genital-shriveling temblor of seething grumpiness that swept through the land and made dogs spasm, trees shudder and giant SUVs spit oil and misfire?
You might've missed it. It happened just after Bill Clinton returned from his rather astonishing rescue mission to North Korea, two exhausted, grateful, grinning, tearful young American female journalists in tow, Al Gore standing by with a giant smile and President Obama and much of his administration off in the wings, nodding approvingly, as the entire nation found itself a bit dumbfounded at the calm and rather effortless brand of new, intelligent, humble, hugely effective humanitarian patriotism on display here.
The churning, teeth-grinding rumble of disquiet? It was coming, of course, from Dick Cheney.
(Author note: From here on out, the phrase "Dick Cheney" shall hereby refer not merely to the former vice-president himself, but also to the sour, clenched worldview he so perfectly encapsulated and still so lovingly represents.
Dick Cheney is a lexical wonder. He can be a violent action verb: "Dude I just Dick Cheney'd that squirrel with my F-150." He is a dark intention: "Let's pull a Dick Cheney on that queer kid in the locker room." He is, most of all, a state of being, a mindset, a fixed position of general disgust. "Sorry lady, I can't save you from this burning building. I'm far too Dick Cheney to give a damn." Clear? Excellent. Let's continue).
See, I'm guessing Dick Cheney the man/mindset was none too pleased at the recent turn of news events. I imagine Dick to be right now re-watching the various video clips of the North Korea fiasco, scowling deeply at the silly/surreal photos of Clinton seated next to -- and towering over -- little Kim Jong Il, the former a natural statesman and the latter trying like hell not to look like some sort of scruffy hunk of semicomatose lint.
Dick is right now hurling his razor-filled oatmeal at the TV screen, wondering just what the hell happened to the true-blooded, trigger-happy, America-as-a-clenched-fist country he worked so hard to devolve and decimate and turn into a giant itchy shotgun. Sending a former president to talk with this pipsqueak terrorist? Giving a nuke-happy dictator a face-saving photo op on the NYT? Dick despises every goddamn liberal hippie second of it.
See, what Dick would've done is, Dick would've marched right in to Pyongyang -- or rather, let some unlucky Marines march over there -- with a few nukes, about 50 tons of C4 and a squadron of fighters, and shown that wobbly pipsqueak tyrant the what what.
Oh sure, an insane, intractable pseudo war with a destitute, pathetic country like North Korea would've been a disaster in roughly 1,000 ways. Who the hell cares? Dick would've made a fortune. He and his hawk buddies would've never let America look so weak in the eyes of dismal tyrants the world over as Obama and Clinton just did -- no matter how well it worked, no matter that it might lead to renewed talks about shutting down N. Korea's nuke program, no matter that the two reporters are now home safe and happy, and it didn't cost the U.S. hundreds of billions, waste soldiers lives and earn us the hate and disrespect of the planet. Dick wants none of that crap.
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Former U.N. Ambassador and noted hunk of anger meat John Bolton was quick to parrot the Cheney worldview in a hissing little Op-Ed in the Washington Post, saying the entire rescue reeked of American wimpiness, of dangerous, kowtowing diplomacy, when what we should be doing is saber rattling and making macho threats and maybe bombing a few hundred thousand innocent civilians to death to make some sort of point. Hey, it worked in Iraq! Oh wait.
Dick Cheney reminds us of one thing: this is a perfect moment to reflect. It is a moment to pause, take a look around and offer a giant heap of gratitude and a huge dose of awe for just what it is that Barack Obama hath wrought.
It is a moment, mainly, to compare governing styles, dominant political attitudes, the directions and worldviews of two very, very different Americas: The one Dick so brutally represented and drove like an ice pick so deeply into the national heart, and the one President Obama is now working to unravel, redirect, heal.
The difference is staggering. See, right now the kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort-'em-out crowd is utterly disgusted that President Obama clearly has zero qualms about taking a notch or five out of bedpost of American machismo bulls--t, about swiping the cancer stick from the mouth of the long dead Marlboro Man and replacing it with something like integrity, calm words of wisdom, tact.
To the Cheney metaverse, this is a disgusting and shameful way to do America's business. With the North Korea situation, we didn't come out looking like sweaty, bulbous titans. There was no red-faced screaming, no flag-draped caskets. Most of all, America didn't get to thump its chest. And if America can't thump its chest and pull out the biggest gun and let the world know who's still boss, well, America has no power whatsoever.
Who the hell wants to be known for demonstrating peaceful, effective humanitarianism and calm diplomacy, and saving human lives if it makes us look like a bunch of weak-kneed pansies? Where is the glory? Where's the firepower? Image is everything. Strut the plumage. Carry the biggest stick. In Cheneyland, sneering intimidation is not only useful, it's vital. There is nothing else.
Or maybe not. Maybe the Obama Way is already turning out to be far more effective, more subtle and intriguing, and much more in America's favor, as tyrannical psychopaths like Kim Jong Il are stupefied into compliance by even the pretense of being taken seriously by the Great Satan, and sane world leaders across the globe finally see a country they can deal with intelligently on pressing matters instead of merely joining them at the gun range to blast stuff to hell.
You might say Dick is not pleased. In fact, Dick Cheney -- and the entire hawkish, antagonistic worldview he embodies -- is downright furious at this country's dangerous new direction. Which, in its way, just might be the best news I've heard all year.