in a column titled Repent, Dick Cheney, in today's New York Times, Dowd examines a forthcoming documentary on Showtime titled “The World According to Dick Cheney,” produced by R. J. Cutler, she says of the man she calls "America’s most powerful and destructive vice president" that he
woos history by growling yet again that he was right and everyone else was wrong.This is not Dowd in her usual snarky mode, although there are lines of snark, but rather the sharp-witted Dowd determined to portray Cheney accurately, as he in effect presents himself in the documentary.
She lets Cheney, who was a raised in a Democratic family in Wyoming, explain that it was the anti-war protests against Vietnam he saw in Madison Wisconsin while doing doctoral studies that turned him conservative, and then frames it in an inescapable fashion by writing
Maybe if he’d paid more attention to the actual war, conducted with a phony casus belli in a country where we did not understand the culture, he wouldn’t have propelled America into two more Vietnams.Please keep reading.
Dowd uses her command of language to devastate the former Vice-President. Consider if you will a one-liner followed by a single paragraph, material coming immediately after what you have just read:
The documentary doesn’t get to the dark heart of the matter about the man with the new heart.harebrained, dictatorial impulses
Did he change, after the shock to his body of so many heart procedures and the shock to his mind of 9/11? Or was he the same person, patiently playing the courtier, once code-named “Backseat” by the Secret Service, until he found the perfect oblivious frontman who would allow him to unleash his harebrained, dictatorial impulses?
From reading this column, I expect that the documentary will demonstrate not only how evil and manipulative Cheney was and is, but also how weak and pliable the man who elevated him to the position of power was - George W Bush does not come across well, until he finally drew the line after the Justice Department's rebellion against "the illegal warrantless domestic spying operation" that we know John Ashcroft allowed to be stopped when he refused to intervene from his hospital bed.
There are two sentences, back to back, in this section that is so appropriate, especially when followed by informing the audience that Cheney played on the President's insecurity and fear of being considered a wimp. The first is
The documentary reveals the Iago lengths that Cheney went to in order to manipulate the unprepared junior Bush.It remains a tragedy for this nation that the truly unprepared Bush was at the helm, not having listened to the warnings of the outgoing administration about Al Qaeda and having ignored the red flags in the summer of 2001, when 9-11 happened, rather than the superbly prepared Al Gore.
George W. Bush had learned how to play President, not how to be President. After the attack he did some of symbolic parts of the role well, but still did not grasp the real importance of keeping the government's responses focused where they should have been rather than allowing Cheney to push us in directions both in our response overseas and in what we did at home that were contrary to American principles, international law, and even effective military strategy.
The second sentence is also important:
Vice had learned turf fighting from a maniacal master of the art, his mentor Donald Rumsfeld.Remember, Cheney became White House Chief of Staff in his 30s when then President Ford moved Rumsfeld to the Pentagon. The two understood how to "play the game" inside an administration. On this originally Colin Powell and Condi Rice were simply overmatched, neither having played at these levels before. We knew already that Cheney rarely spoke in the meetings with others but then would be sure he had the last word with Bush. Given his apparent understanding of the President's psyche he was able to drive him in directions he might not otherwise have gone.
It is very unfortunate that when testifying before the 9-11 Commission the two appeared together. It would have been fascinating to have them testify separately - under oath - with the testimony not released of either until after both had testified. It would have best been served had they had no opportunity to coordinate their remarks - perhaps the nation would have learned even prior to the 2004 election how Cheney had manipulated this nation into a war of choice in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9-11 and which had unfortunate consequences in this nation economically as well as militarily, severely weakening us on both fronts.
Cheney still supports waterboarding. He could care less about "honor" and argues at least implicitly that it saves lives, although to date there is NO evidence on the record of useful information gained thereby.
Dowd follows up Cheney's remarks about waterboarding by noting he doesn't care what others may say about him, it does not cause him lack of sleep - an illustration of the intellectual arrogance and moral insensitivity (or is it depravity?) that is so typical of Cheney.
She then immediately closes her column like this:
They’re going to say you were a misguided powermonger who, in a paranoid spasm, led this nation into an unthinkable calamity. Sleep on that.Powerful, but the only point in the column with which I am prepared to take issue.
With one word - misguided
that simply is not accurate.
Richard Cheney was a willfully evil powermonger, paranoid or not.
We should never forget that.
It is unfortunate that he can neither be put on charges as a war criminal nor can he be held civilly liable for the damage he caused.
My sense is those who see the documentary will have a far more accurate portrayal of Cheney and the destructive role he played. Given the reach of Dow's column, I suspect the number of elite opinion makers who will watch has just gone up.