Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Dastardly Despot

For someone for whom media attention is anathema, Cheney must be having his share of agita.

There is the whole issue of Cheney declaring himself outside the bounds of the Executive Branch, see Talking Points Memo, and therefore outside the scope of the oversight rules for protecting classified information. Above is Jon Stewart's brilliant take on this. See also, Countdown: Above The Law. His former aide, Libby, is on his way to jail (barring a last minute pardon). The Lawless Administration is going through some hard times, with its various "wartime" policies being found to be beyond the pale. For example, Sidney Blumenthal writes, of the Imperial presidency declared null and void, where even the Administration's once loyal, conservative insiders recognize that the end is near:

Yet another Bush legal official, even now at the commanding heights of power, admits that the administration's policies are largely discredited. In its defense, he says without a hint of irony or sarcasm, "Not everything we've done has been illegal." He adds, "Not everything has been ultra vires" -- a legal term referring to actions beyond the law.
See also, Digby at Hullabaloo Court Defectors.

Now that the Administration is lurking in the toilet bowl of popularity, the Washington Post figures it's time to take on Cheney in a devastating 4-part, in-depth piece, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. It's a must read character study of the man.

Sunday's article, A Different Understanding With the President Monday's piece, Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, and today's A Strong Push From Back Stage, are detailed, devastating portraits of Cheney as the Operator in Chief, pulling the strings for a malleable President Puppet.

As was noted in the first installment:

Waxing or waning, Cheney holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio across the executive branch. Bush works most naturally, close observers said, at the level of broad objectives, broadly declared. Cheney, they said, inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.

Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.

Detailing the extent of his role in the torture policy adopted by the Administration, the Post's second part says of Cheney:
The vice president's unseen victories attest to traits that are often ascribed to him but are hard to demonstrate from the public record: thoroughgoing secrecy, persistence of focus, tactical flexibility in service of fixed aims and close knowledge of the power map of government. On critical decisions for more than six years, Cheney has often controlled the pivot points -- tipping the outcome when he could, engineering stalemate when he could not and reopening debates that rivals thought were resolved.

'Once he's taken a position, I think that's it,' said James A. Baker III, who has shared a hunting tent with Cheney more than once and worked with him under three presidents. 'He has been pretty damn good at accumulating power, extraordinarily effective and adept at exercising power.'
The third installment discusses domestic policies, especially the power of the purse, and Cheney's hidden hand in those areas, in A Strong Push From Back Stage:
Cheney has changed history more than once, earning his reputation as the nation's most powerful vice president. His impact has been on public display in the arenas of foreign policy and homeland security, and in a long-running battle to broaden presidential authority. But he has also been the unseen hand behind some of the president's major domestic initiatives.

Scores of interviews with advisers to the president and vice president, as well as with other senior officials throughout the government, offer a backstage view of how the Bush White House operates. The president is 'the decider,' as Bush puts it, but the vice president often serves up his menu of choices.

Cheney led a group that winnowed the president's list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Cheney resolved a crisis in the space program after the Columbia shuttle disaster. Cheney fashioned a controversial truce between the legislative and executive branches -- and averted resignations at the top of the Justice Department and the FBI -- over the right of law enforcement authorities to investigate political corruption in Congress.

And it was Cheney who served as the guardian of conservative orthodoxy on budget and tax matters.
Cheney's unparalleled power over the presidency and the government apparatus can be summed up as:
Cheney's power derives in part from meticulous preparation paired with a strong will to prevail. He knows what he wants, and as one rival put it, Cheney and his staff are "just ferocious negotiators."
The Anonymous Liberal has also been following the series in the Post and has been providing highlights of some of the important revelations.

And even Maureen Dowd had to get in on the act, with her A Vice President Without Borders, Bordering on Lunacy (via Rozius Unbound).

Lucky for the Dickster that Paris Hilton gets her get out of jail free card today. He probably pulled strings to make that happen to deflect any more attention from him.

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