Ridiculous Cheney

The war between Cheney and McCain went up a notch again yesterday, and I'm glad McCain isn't taking the abuse and condescension lying down. Money quote:

When asked about the administration's environmental record, Mr. McCain said, "I would assess this administration's record on global warming as terrible."

Asked by a reporter about his comments about Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. McCain said, "The criticism of the conduct of the war I have voiced for more than three years when I saw that this train wreck was taking place."

Some minutes later, after the news conference had ended, Mr. McCain, unbidden, said to the reporter, "Sir, I stand by my comments about Secretary Rumsfeld, by the way."

It's good to see a simple and accurate phrase deployed to describe the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq: a train wreck. It's also good to see a leading Republican place the blame squarely on Rumsfeld. McCain, it seems to me, grasps two essential facts in a way few others do. Those two facts are that America is a nation dedicated to the rule of law; and we are engaged in a lethal war with ruthless and fanatical enemies. He also believes in crafting domestic policy to address actual problems, rather than to support electorally important constituencies. His isolation in today's Republican party is a sign of its sickness, not health. And the compromises the man has made to stay even faintly viable in such an atmosphere have made that sickness worse.

I should add that, at this point, the vice-president should have the self-respect to keep his views to himself. He does not realize it but he is a ridiculous figure. The record of his public statements over the last few years, from the idiotic "last throes" comment to the absurd "enormous successes" boast have rendered him a deeply unserious public official. The fact that he is ridiculous does not, alas, make him any the less dangerous to the constitution or to the successful conduct of the war. There is plenty of damage he can still wreak, given the chance.