However much commentators like Jon Stewart--primary jester to the court of George the Deuce--might deride Richard Cheney for his secrecy, his man-sized safe, his cool arrogance or his flippant disregard for the Constitution, let it never be said that our current co-president is inconsistent when prioritizing his tasks.
While a substantial number of high-ranking Republicans juggled their time between wringing their hands in trembling hope that Mother Nature would spare them a repeat of the excoriation of the Bush administration's lack of concern (empathy, being the current talking-point), the rank incompetence of FEMA and the resultant PR debacle associated with the Hurricane Katrina calamity three years ago, and staging the over-blown, over-funded pep rally in the Twin Cities, VP Cheney was buttering some bread in the former Soviet states in the Caspian Sea area.
"President Bush has sent me here with a clear and simple message to the people of Azerbaijan and the entire region: The United States has deep and abiding interests in your well-being and security.", Mr Cheney stated, as if anyone at this point actually believes that he serves at the behest of Mr Bush.
Azerbaijan, which borders Georgia and Iran and sits along the Caspian Sea, is an oil- and gas-rich nation and a key U.S. ally in the region. Why this tiny nation should be considered a "-key U.S. ally in the region" might be a question worth a journalist's time to ask, but no explanation beyond "-oil and gas-rich nation" seems to be required or expected from Mr Cheney.
To double-under-score the true meaning of America's "-deep and abiding interest" in "-Azerbaijan and the entire region" of the Caspian, Cheney held meetings with Azerbaijan representatives of oil giants, British Petroleum and Chevron. Perhaps this was a modest effort by the VP to earn the reported one million dollars paid him annually by Halliburton as their beloved former CEO. Only after getting the more important business of oil and gas production out of the way did "-Our Man Dick" squeeze in a meeting with Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev.
Apparently thinking no one would notice with the stories of the nonsensical spectacle of the RNC and a hurricane threatening the Big Easy dominating the "-news" Cheney took this occasion to pontificate, "One of the basic foundations of security and peace is respect for national borders, a principle that is endangered today."- That the Co-president managed to utter this without emitting an ironic chortle or displaying a facial twitch or eye-wink that might indicate he was pulling our collective leg was not reported by those journalists in attendance.
That non sequitur aside, Cheney went on to proclaim "The United States strongly believes that together with the nations of Europe, including Turkey, we must work with Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia on the additional routes for energy exports that ensure the free flow of resources."-
Without follow-up queries from competent journalists, one cannot be certain what Mr Cheney is implying but one can reasonably assume that he envisions an imperial, NATO-like organization, dominated by the USA, which spans from the Atlantic to the Caspian and beyond. One might also be lead to assume that the people living in the region are of less concern to him than ensuring "-the free flow of resources', presumably to western corporations with which Mr Cheney might have association.
Cheney's trip began as U.S. government sources confirmed the Bush administration plans for a $1 billion aid package for Georgia. An observer might wonder how the American taxpayers, suffering growing unemployment, a stagnating economy, record home foreclosures, a devalued dollar, rising inflation and a continually deteriorating infrastructure feel about tossing another billion US into the rat-hole of "-foreign aid' to an enfeebled nation of less than five million people.
It should also be noted that the "-Straight-talking Maverick" multi-millionaire John McCain has, as his presidential campaign's chief foreign policy adviser, lobbyist Randy Scheunemann. Mr Scheunemann is working on the McCain campaign while on hiatus from his DC-based lobbying firm, Orion Strategies. Insofar as McCain has a whole raft of lobbyists working on his campaign, Mr Scheunemann's involvement isn't note-worthy in and of itself. What is notable, however, is that one of the most prominent clients of Orion Strategies is the nation of Georgia. (Yes, that one.) It must be considered less than a coincidence that Mr Scheunemann's Orion Strategies was hired to "-grease the wheels" for the admission of Georgia to NATO, another one of the Bush/Cheney pet projects.
So, let the Republican hoity-toity attend to extravagantly mundane party business and feign empty displays of concern for an impending reprise of a natural calamity, all Americans and, indeed, the citizens of the world can rest assured that Richard Cheney has his priorities in order; perverted as that order may appear to those with a sense of justice or decency.