Joan Didion has a good article in the New York Review of Books on Richard Bruce Cheney, one of the darker blots on American politics, who will be widely proclaimed as such if the U.S. ever returns to separation-of-powers sanity. He's not a blustering thug like Joe McCarthy or a conspicuous, out-front liar like Oliver North, but he shares their basic attributes. Didion gets at the peculiar way he has of screwing up and then profiting from it, while perpetually convincing everyone around him that he is super-intelligent and on the side of the angels. She points out the inconsistencies in his political principles, the only possible thread connecting them being the aggressive acquisition of power and wealth. She examines his statement about having "other priorities than military service" during the Vietnam draft era and the weaselly way he responded in the aftermath of shooting Harry Whittington in the face, making it seem like the victim's fault, and relates these utterances to the Administration's twisted and meaningless justifications for torture. It's a longish article but I recommend reading it and really thinking about this sharp (but ultimately dull) operator, and how we can prevent others like him from coming to power. One conclusion is he's a pure creature of Washington, his only real skill bureaucratic infighting within that cozy yet Byzantine environment. A reason he's so against government transparency is it allows creatures like him to thrive in the inky ooze. So--more openness in government. Constitutionally mandate a "VP blog" and make him spend a couple of hours a day answering direct questions from the people who pay his salary. I'd love to see his lying obfuscations taken apart by smart interlocutors on a comment thread.

- tom moody 10-09-2006 5:37 am

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