Sunday, September 10, 2006

But only their news value

The following exchange took place in a Washington Post online chat August 15th:
"Medford, Mass.: Exactly how is it that our sitting Vice President can get away with saying basically that people who exercised their constitutional right to vote for change (i.e.: Conn. primary) are helping terrorists? How is this not the headline of a story, instead of a footnote?

"Jonathan Weisman: The vice president also said the insurgency in Iraq is in its death throes, and that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators. I'm afraid to say his utterances are losing their news value."
Say what?

We are talking about Dick Cheney - the eminence grise behind W's throne the entire time of his presidency, the man who, as New York Times writers David Sanger and Eric Schmitt write today, "the man who had returned to Washington that year [2001] to remake the powers of the presidency seemed unstoppable." Among his remakes:
the reinterpretation of the rules of war so that they could detain "enemy combatants" and interrogate them at secret detention facilities run by the C.I.A. around the world, and the reshaping of the rules under which members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were denied some of the core rights of the Geneva Conventions and would be tried by "military commissions" at Guantánamo Bay — if they faced trial at all.

"I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it," Mr. Cheney said in December on a flight from Pakistan to Oman.
Cheney shares W's goal (or is it W who shares Cheney's goal? That seems more likely, somehow)
of expanding the power of the presidency: legislation they have sent to Congress would essentially allow them to set the rules of evidence, define interrogation techniques and intercept domestic communications as they have for the past five years.
Remember now? Yeah, it's that Dick Cheney. Lost his "news value?" WTF?

The Times article believes Cheney's star is in the descendent now:
Just this past Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee — controlled by Mr. Cheney’s Republican allies -- declared that there had been no basis for Mr. Cheney'’s repeated claims that Saddam Hussein had harbored an al Qaida leader and had ties to the group. But Mr. Cheney has never conceded that his statement was in error.

His prediction in 2002 that overthrowing Mr. Hussein would force radical extremists "to rethink their strategy of jihad" proved wrong, as Mr. Bush implicitly acknowledged last week when he described how the array of enemies facing America has multiplied. Mr. Cheney'’s friends and former aides said they were mystified about how the same man who as defense secretary in 1991 warned that "for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire" managed, 15 years later, to find himself facing that prospect.

Perhaps nowhere has Mr. Cheney'’s shifting influence been more visible than on Capitol Hill, where the vice president'’s ability to win his way without challenge -- a luxury he enjoyed through much of the first term — has evaporated...

At the height of his influence in the Bush White House two years ago, Mr. Cheney stepped into the Oval Office early one evening and raised an alarm about an agreement [about North Korea] that American negotiators were about to sign in Beijing. ... Mr. Cheney "declared this thing a loser," said a former senior official involved in the discussions that night. Mr. Bush sent new instructions to the negotiators — through the National Security Council rather than the State Department — that essentially killed the deal. "Powell and Armitage were not happy," one official said. "But it was too late."

But Cheney was still one of those who urged the US give Israel all the time possible to wipe out Hezbollah in the recent "unpleasantness" in Lebanon ... another brilliant move, wasn't it? Hezbollah joins al Qaida and Iraq as former-but-now-nonexistent power players in the Mid East... not.

So does it really matter that his influence is "waning"? If it is -- if he hasn't just learned another way to get it done, as the Israeli policy seems to indicate -- does it matter? His influence was all-pervasive for six years, and tainted our country to its core. His brand of "strong, robust executive authority" has led to warrantless wiretapping, invasions of privacy, detainment without arrest, preemptive war, torture, loss of national prestige and international goodwill, and worst of all, our sense of who we are and what we stand for. Has Condi edged Dick out for the President's ear? Maybe. But either she hasn't, or that's not such a huge step forward in the first place.

The White House is still pushing for a system under which we could try people in secret, without ever letting them see the evidence against them; under which testimony, extracted by torture (under whatever name) is admissible; under which they will have been grabbed without warrants and held without counsel. A system, in short, which we would never accept from any other country, but which we will insist on as our right in our need to fight this "war on terror"...

And a system that Cheney is, and has been for years, the strongest advocate of.

Some people might like to call Condi Rice and the State Department "more enlightened" than the Cheney gang, but this becomes a matter of relativity. "More enlightened" than "not at all" can still be "barely" -- more tolerable than completely intolerable isn't not, necessarily, tolerable in the least. When all is said and done, are Condi and State even thinking about anything except cosmetic changes? For instance, what's up with Pakistan, and their sudden, recent (like this week) decision to stop hunting bin Laden? Oh, yes, I know: Musharraf says the deal he made to keep militants out of Afghanistan doesn't include the "command structure", but please. Bin Laden has almost certainly been in Pakistan for a couple of years now. And what about Rice's statements on Friday? While admitting that "as far as we know" Saddam Hussein had nothing to with September 11, she insisted that
"there were ties between Iraq and al Qaida. Now, are we learning more now that we have access to people like Saddam Hussein's intelligence services? Of course we're going to learn more. ... If you think that 9/11 was just about al Qaida and the hijackers, then there's no connection to Iraq. But if you believe, as the president does and as I believe, that the problem is this ideology of hatred that has taken root, extremist ideology that has taken root in the Middle East, and that you have to go to the source and do something about the politics of that region. It is unimaginable that you could do something about the Middle East with Saddam Hussein sitting in the center of it, threatening his neighbors, threatening our allies, tying down American forces in Saudi Arabia."
Forget that American forces in Saudi Arabia are one of the main things that enrages al Qaida. Forget that Hussein was no extremist in his ideology, running his country thuggishly, yes, but without religion entering into it. Forget about who appointed us the ones to "do something about the Middle East". Or, rather, don't. Because it's all part of the same mindset that says Cheney's influence is far from gone.

In the final analysis, Cheney remains a (if no longer the) driving force behind this administrationn. The Lyndon LaRouche guys who set up outside the Post Office in town aren't trying to impeach Condi. They're loons, of course, but they know who's the power behind the throne. (Apropos of that, I've heard people mutter about impeaching Bush, and my immediate reaction is, "Yikes! Cheney in Charge!") What he says may go through an intermediary before reaching W's ear, or it may not, but it reaches the man regardless.

And yet, what he says -- no matter how inflammatory or irresponsible or insulting -- has "lost its news value."

How does that happen? Somebody tell me, how does that happen?



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