Is Cheney Panicking?


The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don't think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

The ratcheting up of the rhetoric - “I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there both our friends and our foes will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests" - is particularly Weimar. He's lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.

(Photo: In this handout image provided by the White House, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's signature appears on the inside of the top drawer of his desk in the Vice President's Ceremonial Office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. The desk, constructed in 1902 and first used by President Theodore Roosevelt, has been signed by various presidents and vice presidents since the 1940s. By David Bohrer/The White House via Getty Images.)