Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Dick Cheney's Awkward New Role

Cheney.jpgThis doesn't fit. Dick Cheney is the inside man. The quiet guy. The Secret Service literally referred to him by code name "backseat." It's not that he's never given an interview or a speech. But that's not how he acts.

Dick Cheney, rather, acts by acting. That is, in a way, his legacy. The simple insight that power need not be popular. That you don't need to follow the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group if you actually direct the army. That you don't need to follow the provisions of the Geneva Convention if you control the CIA. That you don't need to be transparent or well-liked or broadly trusted. What you need is a hand on the levers of power. Let others argue. You can act.

The problem, however, is that if you act alone, your impact is not durable. It can be undone. Cheney didn't build -- didn't even seem interested in building -- consensus around his vision. He forged on even as the public turned angrily against him. In the short-term, that allowed him to avoid significant compromise with the trends in public opinion. In the long-run, it rendered his achievements fragile once they lost their protector.

And so now Cheney is in an unexpected position. He is without agencies to direct or armies to control. But he cannot bear to see his policies unwound. The consummate inside player is forced into an outside game. But there is no outside game. Barack Obama controls the levers of power. And no one knows better than Cheney what that means. It means that Obama can act. All Cheney can do is argue.

(Photo credit: Win McNamee -- Getty Images)

By Ezra Klein  |  May 22, 2009; 9:44 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Should Ben Bernanke Roll the Dice?
Next: Can the IRS Save America?

Comments

watching him now, it appears to be the undoing of dick cheney.

he appears like ebenezer scrooge, pitifully arguing with the spirits, as his arguments crumble away and the spirits play tricks on his imagination and shake his soul.
from watching him, it seems that his own personal exile and wrestling with the spirits has begun.

Posted by: jkaren | May 22, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

watching him now, it appears to be the undoing of dick cheney.

he appears like ebenezer scrooge, pitifully arguing with the spirits, as his arguments crumble away and the spirits play tricks on his imagination and shake his soul.
from watching him, it seems that his own personal exile and wrestling with the spirits has begun.

Posted by: jkaren | May 22, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I've always thought of torture as a dysfunctional way of coping with feelings of impotence. Because people like Cheney cannot tolerate the feeling that other methods of dealing with the threat of terrorism are uncertain, they resort to torture because it's "the last resort." It doesn't matter that torture is no more certain than any other method; it just feels better to the person who resorts to it because it relieves them of the sense that they could do "more." There is nothing more to be done.

Posted by: jefft1225 | May 22, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

It is astonishing that yesterday was a day to discuss whether or not the US government needs to utilize torture as a tool to secure the nation.

It is just as astonishing that the man who kept most things secret during his administration is now calling for the release of classified information in an attempt to prove the value of torture as a national security tool.

What I'd like to see from Cheney's files - release of the top secret information on the development of US energy policy - way back when Ken Lay was a fixture at the White House – back in those days when the twin towers still stood tall and Dick Cheney made it clear his goal was to reassert the power of the presidency that was lost thanks to Nixon.

Cheney is a man who, when in power, firmly believed public policy needed to be developed in secret.

He's a man who feels that state-sanctioned torture is vital to protect our nation from enemies.

He's a man who feels that holding prisoners indefinitely without trial is preferable to upholding the foundational American principles of justice and law.

Waving the flag of patriotism, Cheney has done his very best to destroy the country he claims to love.

http://wardonwords.blogspot.com

Posted by: anne3 | May 22, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Sad to say, but Cheney has been fairly effective in his new role, despite his many absurd claims and arguments (e.g. that if you disagree with waterboarding or indefinite detention without trial then you must think that 9/11 was necessarily a singular event; in the real world, of course, many people rightly believe that such actions make another such event more likely rather than less and furthermore they are morally abhorrent regardless of their utility or lack thereof).

With some exceptions -- notably complying with a court order to release the OLC memos -- Obama has been pretty much following the Bush/Cheney lead. See e.g. Glenn Greenwald, Digby and WaPo's Froomkin on this story.

Posted by: crust1 | May 22, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Ezra, you are kind to Cheney when you characterize his goal as defending his vision. The two are interlinked, but he is also defending his own hide. He doesn't want to be investigated or prosecuted.

Posted by: crust1 | May 22, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

This is actually some of the better commentary I have read about this situation. Cheney doesn't know what to do and fighting is always a last defensive resort. He knows he holds ultimate blame if these policies are changed.
http://www.newsy.com/videos/u_s_security_how_far_is_too_far

Posted by: jms2qc | May 22, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

This is pretty much how most war criminals have behaved throughout history.

Why would anyone think Cheney would be any different?

Cheney is almost boring in how typical a war criminal he turned out to be.

But if he thinks torture is so great, I've got a solution... let this hot shot make his case in court rather than undermining our president during a critical time.

Posted by: j_mcdouglas | May 22, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't think this is quite right. Cheney has always shown a willingness to be unpopular. Partially as a result of that unwillingness, and partially because he is considered a "serious" player, he has credibility in the Washington media--not necessarily as someone they like or respect but as a powerful person to whom you must pay attention.

It seems to me that Cheney is leveraging that image to try to influence the Obama administration policies. At this point, no self-interested Republican politician can take point on torture and assorted other policies. Cheney is trying to give a prominent voice to the neoconservative viewpoint so that Obama can take the "moderate" position instead of being pulled further and further to the left.

Posted by: jpliving | May 23, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Dick Chenney is type of person who is so bitter inside and he just can't get over his losses. That is what I can really read out of him, but he might be just sticking his head out and testing the grounds for some personal interests, just like the 8 years of hell he provided to us. His familly are all millioners now and pretty soon they will start getting their loyalty checks from the oil refineries they took from Iraq and Kuwait by sending our kids to fight for it. Could we just waterboard him to tell us about his vice presidency crimes. He'll speak, I guarantee you that, he's chicken.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | May 23, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company