I can’t believe I miss Dick Cheney.
Remember the good old days when the opposition riff was that President George W. Bush was the figurehead and Vice president Dick Cheney was the force? That Bush was an amiable, pliable idiot and Cheney his evil tutor, plotting wars, enriching cronies, and knifing nemeses behind the scenes? Along with Karl Rove, Cheney was often characterized as Bush’s brain, but culturally speaking, he also served as Bush’s Bannon.
Today, alas, that scenario brings just two words to mind: If only.
W. was often derided as a puppet, but these days that is looking like a term of praise. Having been a governor and an old hand on his father’s campaigns, he knew that governing is the ultimate maze, and installed someone who knew all the turns.
By contrast, to call Trump a puppet is an insult to marionettes everywhere -- for they, at least, allow agile hands to pull their strings.
Faced with a White House overrun with media-monger monkeys eating one another, one actually pines for a White House run by a strong, silent predator who could eat them all.
Forced to contemplate an administration that takes one of the very few simple, straightforward issues in the whole of U.S. foreign policy and injects it with needless difficulty, as Trump has just done with NATO, one feels positively nostalgic for an administration that at least got things wrong vis-à-vis questions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, that were, and are, legitimately hard to get right.
Amid high-level corruption that is so innate and yet so flagrant, one finds oneself with something of a soft spot for corruption that was cool and corporate, along the lines of the no-bid war-services contract awarded to Cheney’s old confreres at Halliburton-cum-KBR, in which case there was at least an argument that there weren’t a million competitors at the ready for that undertaking. And at least there, you could sort of see who was profiting and how. Apart from the low-hanging, if poison, fruit that has long been dangling in plain sight – the hotel down the street from the White House, the speed-approved Chinese trademarks and so on – Trump’s conflicts and potential conflicts remain hidden because he does not deign to show them.
(Come to think of it, I miss Hillary’s brothers Hugh and Tony Rodham, too. Remember when they caught holy hell for that hazelnut-distribution deal in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia?)
Veritably waterlogged by leaks that are disturbing in their incidence, their profusion, and their revelatory content, one dreams of a White House pervaded by that special mix of fear, loyalty and trust that (mostly) seals the faucet.
Opening the papers to an allegedly-proposed “back channel” to Russia whose creation was, if news reports are one-quarter correct, broached with less finesse than that involved in your average Verizon Fios installation, one retroactively salutes a transition run by a man who would never allow prospective appointees to try and circumvent U.S. intelligence unless they knew how.
As for the whole issue of Russian meddling in a U.S. election, one might fall short of the former vice president’s characterization of it as “an act of war.” Yet compared to the current crew’s “fake news” take on the whole thing, his concern is refreshing.
Of course, Cheney supported Trump from early on and for all I know, he still does. But I can’t help picturing him crouched in a custom-built bunker out in Wyoming somewhere, snickering and slapping his forehead, right along with the rest of us.