Sunday, April 30, 2006
Dick Cheney is so evil ...
... his office won't even talk to the guy who compiles the Federal Directory.
No, really. Not a joke. True.
If you're going to pick up one issue of the American Prospect this year (and you're not Matt Yglesias' mom), pick up the May 2006 edition, out on newstands now. Or better yet, read the most important parts of it online ... ya cheap bastard, ya.
Along with Michael Tomasky's clinical (if somewhat overwrought) prescription for Democrats to revive their electoral fortunes, there's a great piece in May's Prospect on Dick Cheney's staff by Robert Dreyfuss. Full of insight into the fringe, shadowy neocon roots of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the method behind the OVP's extraordinary muscle in the formulation of national policy, the article also highlights Cheney's - and by extension his staff's - evangelical commitment to un-transparency.
Or to be more blunt, just how devoted these people are to doing all manner of evil in deepest, darkest secrecy.
One passage stands out. It's not the most deadly iteration of the OVP's secret ways - not by a long shot - but it may be the most disturbing for what it says of how complete the paranoia is:
It is the latter, especially Cheney’s press secretaries - he has run through seven of them - whose job is saying nothing, and saying it often. His press people seem shocked that a reporter would even ask for an interview with the staff. The blanket answer is no - nobody is available. Amazingly, the vice president’s office flatly refuses to even disclose who works there, or what their titles are. “We just don’t give out that kind of information,” says Jennifer Mayfield, another of Cheney’s “angels.” She won’t say who is on staff, or what they do? No, she insists. “It’s just not something we talk about.” The notoriously silent OVP staff rebuffs not just pesky reporters but even innocuous database researchers from companies like Carroll Publishing, which puts out the quarterly Federal Directory. “They’re tight-lipped about the kind of information they put out,” says Albert Ruffin, senior editor at Carroll, who fumes that Cheney’s office doesn’t bother returning his calls when he’s updating the limited information he manages to collect. (my empahsis)This is obssession with secrecy that borders on the pathological. And while it's clear from everything else we know about him that Cheney himself is the engine driving this extreme paranoia, it seems bizarre that he has been able to surround himself with so many individuals in the OVP - in fact, all of them, as far as we can tell - who share his mania.
There is more than a whiff of Nixonian craziness about all this. So much so that when this unfortunate period of American history is over, it seems inevitable that we will all but retire Richard Nixon as the go-to analogy for pundits on deadline writing about future White House malfeasance ... and replace it with tales of the Cheney-Bush operation.
In fact, the beseiged-at-all-times mentality of the OVP - combined with its extreme bully tactics in policy planning and record of no-hold-barred personal attacks on critics who dare voice any apostasy to the office's gradiose, criminally uninformed visions of a globe-spanning America able to adjust a few dials here and carpet bomb a few levers there to spontaneously create Western-style democracies and market-based economies where few seeds for such even exist - call to mind any number of totalitarian party apparatuses from our worst 20th-century nightmares.
Indeed, after reading Dreyfuss' piece, we are left with yet more confirmation of the bitter realization reached so long ago by many of us that not only do these clowns not get democracy, they openly despise it. One never wishes to be a naif about the way that policy sausage is made. But is it so bright-eyed and Kumbayatarian to expect a minimum of give-and-take in government decision-making ... to demand of officials at least the barest understanding that, if only for form's sake, they ought to make a show of listening to views other than their own?
The OVP cadre doesn't even do that:
Time after time, in various interagency meetings, all the way up to the Cabinet-level “principals committee,” [former top State Department official Larry] Wilkerson would watch in astonishment as Cheney’s staffers muscled everyone else.Meeting's over. Go fuck yourselves.
“The staff that the vice president sent out made sure that those [committees] didn’t key anything up that wasn’t what the vice president wanted,” says Wilkerson. “Their style was simply to sit and listen, and take notes. And if things looked like they were going to go speedily to a decision that they knew that the vice president wasn’t going to like, generally they would, at the end of the meeting, in great bureaucratic style, they’d say: ‘We totally disagree. Meeting’s over.’” At that point, policymakers from the NSC, the State Department, the Defense Department, and elsewhere would have to go back to the drawing board. And if a policy option that Cheney opposed somehow got written up as a decision memorandum and sent to the Oval Office, he showed up to kill it. “The vice president’s second or third bite at the apple was when he’d walk in to see the president,” says Wilkerson. “And things would get reversed, because of the vice president’s meeting in the Oval Office with no one else there.”
Cheney's approval rating is listing badly - currently he's less popular than O.J. Simpson was after his murder trial. But that doesn't appear to be stopping this paranoid maniac or his OVP enablers, according to Dreyfuss. He still occupies the top spot in Washington - just a tongue's length away from the President's ear*.
This crew has long viewed "the invasion of Iraq as the prelude to an assault on neighboring Iran," writes Dreyfuss. In recent months, we have witnessed the sabre-rattling towards Iran ratcheted up several notches. It has been tempting to dismiss all the talk about war with Iran - and with nukes on the table, no less! - as so much crazy talk by a lame-duck administration grasping at straws. Way back in March 2003, the Axis of Evil Tour was playing to packed stadium crowds. But by 2006, everybody with a brain thought the damn thing would have been cancelled by now.
Not the OVP, whose members have a Spinal Tap-like ability to remain blissfully unaware of just how completely the public's tastes have passed them by. For Cheney and his band, it's going to be "Hello, Teheran!" sometime soon, as originally planned.
And you better believe they're pulling out all the stops to make sure the show goes on. In the coming weeks and months, they will broadcast every smear, rumor and forgery "proving" an implacable Iranian threat that they can muster. They will use all their bullying tricks to squash dissent in the Pentagon, State Department and NSA. Just as they did to gin up support for the invasion of Iraq.
Scary, scary times.