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Cheney and Cheneyism

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Dick Cheney is one thing and Cheneyism is another. Dick "Backseat" Cheney is a political cockroach. Open the door and in he scuttles, finding immediately the dark places in any space and feeding surreptitiously from the general mess. He acquires power by taking jobs that no one else really wants, and in this way resembles Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili (Uncle Joe Stalin) more than any other character preceding him. The Vice Presidency is such a job, a laughing stock, a glass of warm "spit," an obscure office where a Cheney could thrive. He has. He has been the power behind much in the CheneyBush administration, a fact we have identifed months and months ago.

Cheney has a low center of gravity, a knack for being unperturbed by the by-play of Washington politics, but make no mistake, he is keeping score, relentlessly.

Dick Cheney is a profane man who fancies himself cut from a mold that once cut Teddy Roosevelt. He is a "sportsman" and respecter of manly arts. When an "effete Vermonter" pissed him off, his "Go f*ck Yourself, Senator" came straight from the hip and was barely noticed by his prefrontal cortex or any other part of his brain that might be involved (in other people) with ethics and courtesy. Cheney believes that courtesy is a weakness, but that brash assertiveness is the mark of a survivor, a winner. Accordingly, Cheney does not think much of other human beings. Cheney is a social darwinist, a person who believes that human life is meant to be a struggle for survival. For him survival is gaining control over his environment, and being one who acquired power by association with smarter people or richer people or just by accident, he sees himself as a survivor and the rest are, well, stooges. This aspect of Cheney's personality dominates his conscious and unconscious life.

Cheney has a bit of an inferiority complex because he does not have a very strong pedigree or resume. He coattailed Rumsfeld into Washington politics and made use of his singular opportunity like some sort of dark Horatio Alger, learning the back channels, the dirt, the seamy side and the levers of power. He has been astute and despite his modest intellect, he is above average in achievement, and it would be a very big mistake to underestimate his ability to reach a conclusion quickly. It would be appropriate to notice, nevertheless, that he (like many who are not well-endowed with synaptic agility) tends to hold onto his judgments despite accumulating evidence. This is part of his "manliness" construct, of course. Cheney is no wimp, at least not his own mirror.

Dick Cheney's grounding in the masculine mythos and in the survival of the fittest ethos of the 19th century American wild west, (as portrayed to the world on Wyoming license plates), and the strange moodiness that overcomes natives of the area during the Chinook winds off the slopes of the Rocky Mountains (rendering Casper as the per capita suicide capital of America) led him inexorably to the neocon ideology expressed by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

You will recall that when the Constitution was written and ratified the United States was not a world power and was engaged in consolidating itself as an isolated continental power in North America, with unfriendly Spaniards to the south and semi-hostile, semi-friendly British to the north in Canada. The ideas in the PNAC credo do not quite fit our Constitution and, therefore, Cheney does not quite believe the Constitution fits anymore. I would not want to overemphasize the causal connection here. Cheney's animus was never quite ready for the give and take and balance that our Constitution requires. For Dick Cheney the Constitution is an old piece of paper, useful for giving a minimum structure in which to operate, but almost entirely without moral or principled implications. He just does not respect it, period.

Cheney is fundamentally and viscerally intolerant. To satisfy his own intellect, he does not have to concede anyone's hypotheses about life, government, politics. He reaches his own opinion and that is that. It is not pragmatism,; it is totalitarian, in fact. Cheney is not democratic and frankly disdains the idea that democracy is a better form of government than oligarchy or even kleptocratic corporatist fascism, which is his own faith and the proof that Cheney does not exist in a vacuum.

There are Cheneyists and Cheneyites all over the place. Cheney, like Stalin before him, has salted the federal government with people who are beholding to him and him alone for their position and sway. They were picked because they agree with Dick Cheney's analysis of history and government, namely, that there is too much opportunity there to be left to the hoi polloi, to democratic inefficiencies, to the vagaries of public opinion.

Cheneyism is a generalized phenomenon into which Dick Cheney fits in some ways only by accident. He seems to epitomize the callous disregard for rule of law, for might-makes-right foreign affairs, for secrecy and subterfuge, for torture, for anti-democratic spin and for spoils-system kleptomania, but actually Cheney is just the most visible and perhaps the most immediately dangerous practitioner of Cheneyism.

Cheneyism is a name we give to the dark, kleptofascist corporatists that swim among us. Their group is as old as the republic and never gives up trying to acquire power and riches so to acquire insulation from the vagaries of life. In Cheney's case no amount of insulation will protect him from his own dark damaged heart. Cheneyism is a false ideology, of course. The fittest are those who cooperate, not those who kill and torture and disdain the lives and minds of people they cannot use.

Cheneyism is, to paraphrase Rahm Emanuel on Countdown Tuesday evening, the credo of George Bush, for without that partnership Cheney would not be where he is today-the options behind "the Decider." Long time readers will recall that you saw here first the notion that Bush's declaration of being The Decider was partly in reaction to seeping knowledge that Cheney was the power behind the throne. But Cheneyism goes much, much farther than Bush. There are Cheneyistas in Congress, men and women who believe that their affiliation to the Republican party trumps their oath of office, particularly the idea that their number one job is to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States. The hardline party loyalists believe as Cheney does the moment he awakes hanging upside down in his cave on Naval Observatory hill that a republic need not be a democracy, but rather would be more effective and efficient as a corporatist republic, representing the needs of the masses through their employers, and-never forget-enriching those chosen to "public service" in the corporate ladder-climbing processes.

Cheney may fall. He may die of heart failure. He may get impeached. The problem is that like all good cockroaches, he has multiplied and his kind are in the cracks and boldly strutting down the boulevards of Washington. Meanwhile the press believes they have identified an anomolous creature. They are wrong. Cheney is just the darkest of his kind.


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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