Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
I had decided to spare myself the aggravation of watching Vice President Dick Cheney on Tim Russert's program this morning, but I caved. Cheney has that unique "dead skunk" gravitas that makes him horrible to watch but oh so difficult to look away from.
Cheney has been called "Doctor Doom." He reminds me more of a few other comic book villains. Depending on his demeanor of the moment, he resembles The Penguin, The Thing or The Kingpin. And he showed all those sides of his personality on Meet the Press this morning.
Much of his rhetoric was about how much "progress" has been made in the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. If Iraq and Afghanistan are Cheney's idea of progress, I'd hate to see what he considers abject defeat.
Russert has taken a lot of heat lately--much of it over at Huffington Post--for being a doormat for the neoconservatives, letting them broadcast their talking points without pushing back. My first impression of today's interview is that Tim did a fairly darn good job of holding Cheney's nose to the candle.
At one point, Russert interrupted the Vice President's rant on Iraq and stated the question I've been begging to hear the mainstream media ask for over a year.
"What is 'victory,' what is 'staying the course,' what is 'winning?'" Russert asked.
Cheney gave a rambling response that didn't answer the question, something that has become a hallmark of the Bush administration.
By the end of the interview, Cheney took to hiding behind "I can't answer that" evasions based on legal and security reasons. He smirked and scowled. He made wild predictions about the November elections. He got downright to the point where he looked and sounded like he sensed he'd been taken down on national television. You know that look politicians and lawyers get sometimes when they know they've been exposed as malarkey vendors? That half smile, half cry-face that says, "Okay, I guess the jig's up?" That's what I thought I saw on Cheney's face at the end of his interview. I hope the rest of the country saw it too.
Like Mark Twain, I often wonder if the neocons in the Bush administration believe their own gibberish or if they're just putting us on for the sake of holding power. Right now, I'm convinced that young Mister Bush himself is intellectually incapable of discerning fact from Rovewellian fiction. But based on Cheney's performance today on Meet the Press, I believe that he knows darn good and well that he's full of monkeyshines, and that he's catching on to the fact that most Americans know darn good and well that he's full of it too.
Former National Security Advisor and current Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is another matter. I think she's somewhere in between Bush and Cheney. On Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, she displayed that Microsoft Windows hourglass look you've seen on her face so often in the past few years. She says what she's been programmed to say, but her eyes tell you that somewhere in her subconscious she knows that what she's saying is false. She has an internal checksum error that's about to turn into a system crash, but she doesn't have the luxury of being able to stop and reboot--she's already too many ticks committed into the neoconservatives' time bomb.
Condi was never a real driver of the Bush administration's policy agenda. She was brought on board the team to be part of Dubya's office harem--a workout partner and a foreign affairs tutor. "Iraq is the country on the left of that little water thingie. Iran is the one on the right. That group of countries to the right of the bigger water thingie is Europe. To the left, on the other side of the even bigger water thingie, is Asia. That's where those little Chinese people live."
Missing the Point
The Bush administration's conjuring of bogeymen, evildoers and mushroom clouds masks the essential failure of its foreign policy. America's military misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed. Capitalizing on those failures, China, Russia and Iran are forming an energy coalition that threatens to take down the U.S. dominance of global affairs. I think Dick Cheney understands this, and that's why he goes so far out of his way to avoid talking about it. I don't think Condi has a clue what's really going on. She's too busy appearing on Sunday talk shows and trying to teach Mister Bush how to pronounce "Ahmadinejad." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his kiss-up generals have screwed up the war on terror so badly that Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz combined couldn't fix their foibles.
If the Democrats get control of one or both houses of Congress come November, they'll have a tough road to hoe--the road to ruin, which the Bush administration has taken this country so far down that we may never be able to get back to the point we were at in the year 2000.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.