“If you’re a man of principle, compromise is a bit of a dirty word. The President made the decision that he wanted to avoid major controversy. It was his call, so that’s what we did.” – Dick Cheney on George W. Bush’s decision to reverse himself on warrantless wiretaps when he finds out what Cheney has orchestrated behind his back. [Showtime's "The World According to Dick Cheney"]
THE DISRESPECT Vice President Richard B. (Dick) Cheney has for former President George W. Bush is revealed in the quote above. It comes far into Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney,” released just as we commemorate ten years since the start of the Iraq war.
It was March 2004 when President Bush is told by James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, that he’s been basically lied to by his staff, starting with Mr. Cheney.
From a New York Times review by Alexandra Stanley, which accurately depicts the drama:
Mr. Cheney, who uses the pronoun “I” so assertively that when he says “we,” it sounds like the royal first-person pronoun, doesn’t play down his authority in the Bush White House. But others in the film make the case that Mr. Cheney manipulated Mr. Bush and at times even deceived him in ways that endangered his presidency.
One incident is almost chilling. Barton Gellman, a journalist and the author of a Cheney biography, recounts how in 2004 Mr. Cheney fought Justice Department lawyers who had determined that the top-secret, warrantless surveillance program that he had pushed for was illegal. Mr. Cheney was so insistent on keeping the wiretaps going that he kept Mr. Bush, then in his re-election campaign, out of the loop until the 11th hour, when two dozen Justice Department lawyers and the F.B.I. director threatened to resign.
Bush’s decision to reverse himself, “a complete 180″ from what he had signed on to just 24 hours earlier, is described by Barton Gellman as “unprecedented in American history.” It happened because Comey was allowed to talk to Bush and tell him what was going on behind his back through the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney.
One of the most stunning revelations of the Showtime documentary, though no one else has mentioned it yet as far as I’ve seen, is the smallness and irrelevancy of George W. Bush in his own presidency, which is revealed through Cheney’s own words and world view of where he places himself in history. It wasn’t until the very end of Bush’s second term that he struggles out of the grip of Cheney. The documentary brilliantly reveals Richard Cheney as the center of the Bush presidency’s power, while George W. Bush seemingly remains oblivious. It’s subtle, with the narrative cleverly woven throughout the documentary, though it could just as easily be surfacing organically through Cheney’s self-involved world view.
Coming after the Iraq war debacle, the historic chapter on warrantless wiretaps is seminal in cementing the story of Dick Cheney’s grip over the Administration, but also included the entire U.S. traditional media. Clips of “Meet the Press,” when Tim Russert was its steward, go further in proving the press’s wholly culpable role in the disastrous history that resulted during the Bush-Cheney years.
It is absolutely inconceivable that Barack Obama would have allowed this type of usurpation of his presidential power by Joe Biden.
Looking back to 2006 at what I wrote after the Frontline documentary “The Dark Side,” the full picture of Richard B. Cheney’s malevolence can now be seen fully.
Anyone living through the Vietnam era and becoming a conservative out of the horror of Richard M. Nixon’s behavior, which makes Lyndon Johnson’s manipulations and escalation pale in comparison, something that’s hard to do, automatically deserves skepticism when being considered for leadership. But that was the impact of that era on Dick Cheney. Nixon’s potential impeachment proving to Cheney, as well as Donald Rumsfeld, that the Executive Branch should be held higher than Legislative and Judiciary, something he worked his entire time in government to cement, which remains his legacy today.
Harry Truman’s national security naÃ¯vetÃ©, allowing his staff to use him as a pawn, which led to the dropping of the first nuclear bombs, is the only thing that rivals Dick Cheney’s epic immorality as an advisor, or George W. Bush’s weakness. Cheney’s actions not only make him a war criminal, but worse than Truman’s advisors, because in the modern era there was widely known proof that Saddam Hussein was never at any time a clear and present danger to the United States. The resulting human rights violations, constitutional malfeasance, the manipulations of intelligence that includes involvement in Valerie Plame Wilson’s NOC cover being blown, because her esteemed foreign service husband Joseph Wilson dared to tell the truth, all of it reveals criminal behavior that Cheney’s grifting and derelict start foreshadowed.
Commemorating the 10th year of the Iraq war, a horrific miscarriage against everything our country stands for, Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney” comes at a perfect time. The arrogant narcissism that led us into Iraq, seen through Richard B. Cheney, at the head of the snake responsible for the concoction of the war, reminds us all what can happen when a very small minded man who never had the brains, or the moral fiber, for leadership, but did have the ideological zealotry, is allowed the opportunity to play puppet master of a man as weak as George W. Bush. In a foundation of the Republican party, with its epic empire fetish, we’ve now all lived through yet another decade of what this type of incompetence and maniacal greed for power can bring.
When Syria’s expanding nuclear capabilities hit the news in 2007, reasserting the authority the Administration had in 2003 became Cheney’s obsession. It included the suicidal notion that the U.S. should unilaterally bomb Syria when a nuclear compound under construction was revealed. “Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues,” Cheney hisses, finally understanding that Condoleezza Rice had become his nemesis, especially since she is reportedly responsible for getting Comey in the room with Bush, which led to the warrantless wiretap reversal. Nobody supported Cheney when he suggest a unilateral strike. He was finally “isolated and quite irrelevant,” as Bob Woodward assesses it in the Showtime documentary.
Bush not pardoning the convicted felon Scooter Libby, for his role in outing Valerie Plame Wilson, was the final break in their relationship. Cheney said Bush had the power “to fix it,” but refused. Cheney saw that as leaving a political warrior on the field of battle. George W. Bush reportedly requested that not another phone call from his vice president ever be put through to the Oval Office again.
A man who began his adulthood as a common drunk, flunking out of Yale twice, saved only through the love of Lynn Cheney, as the story goes, should never have been allowed the power he had in the American government. Past is prologue comes to mind. That Dick Cheney would hook up with another alcoholic seems fitting, as these two recovering addicts take the country on a disastrous ride through the Middle East, leaving nothing but scorched earth, our American reputation in ruin, and a foreign policy that took yet again a Democratic administration to patch back together.
If anyone is wondering what President Obama did through appointing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state they need look no further than Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney” to be reminded of what George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney dumped in the Democratic administration’s lap. People have very short memories and in our country giving a woman the credit is the last choice of the scoundrels she saves.
“I think we have to go back to my beginning in January ’09 to remember how poorly perceived the United States was, how badly damaged our reputation was, how our leadership was in question, how the economic crisis had really shaken people’s confidence in our government, our economic system, our country.” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [CNN]
Disclosure: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson is featured on my book’s dust jacket, writing a blurb in support of the coverage I offered during the 2008 election.