The (Attempted) Rehabilitation of GWB, and His Puppetmaster VP

Peter Baker has a book to sell, about the unsuspected steely-eyed realpoliticks of what Charles P. Pierce calls “the Avignon Presidency”, so the NYTimes Sunday magazine has a loooong excerpt explaining that Dubya totally did not ask ‘how high’ whenever Darth Cheney said ‘jump’…

The president’s closest friends and advisers do not recall him ever complaining that Cheney had pushed him to do something he would not have done otherwise. And Cheney “never did anything in his time serving George W. that George W. didn’t either sanction or approve of,” said Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming and a close friend of Cheney’s.

Cheney was unquestionably the most influential vice president in American history, but that influence was in large part a function of his deference, as much as any overt exertion of power. Because he had no aspiration to ever run for president himself, he was able to focus on making Bush’s presidency successful — though on terms that he helped define. In return, Bush gave him access to every meeting and decision, a marked contrast to many of his predecessors. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s appointment calendar shows only two meetings with Vice President Harry Truman after they were inaugurated. When asked in 2002 how many times he had met privately with Bush, Cheney reached into his suit pocket and pulled out his schedule. “Let me see,” he said. “Three, four, five, six, seven — seven times.” Then he added: “Today.”

Bush put him on the ticket in 2000 to balance his own inexperience. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the choice seemed prescient. Cheney’s calm hand in the bunker that day and in the war cabinet in the weeks that followed gave Bush confidence that he could depend on seasoned counsel as he began to confront a changed world. Cheney operated in tandem with Donald Rumsfeld, his longtime mentor who gave him his first White House job under Richard Nixon and was now serving as defense secretary. Together, they shared a vision of a world of threats that required a strong executive branch and an unapologetic assertion of American power. “He never came over to me and organized against some decision or said we have to marshal support for this or that,” Rumsfeld later told me. But he never had to. They were almost always on the same page, executing the same vision.

By the second term, though, as that vision came under fire with the deterioration of Iraq and the failure to find the weapons that led to the invasion, Bush moved away from Cheney and turned increasingly toward Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who supplanted Cheney as the president’s most influential lieutenant…

“Wrecked ‘im? Heck, I barely even knew him!”

Marcy Wheeler, who’s been raking these mudflats since the early days, has the first of what I suspect will be many teardowns of the “Meat Grinder for Bush”:

If Baker believes Simpson’s claim, however, then his entire reading of Cheney’s involvement in leaking Valerie Plame’s identity is wrong (and not just because he quotes Liz Cheney pretending PapaDick had no role in the leak)…

Baker implies that Bush’s conclusion — that Libby believed he was protecting Cheney — convinced himself it would not be ethical to pardon Libby based on Cheney’s insistence. (Note, whatever you and I were paying Burck, it was far too much, because his logic as portrayed here is pathetically stupid.)

That would imply that Bush believed — Burck’s shitty counsel to the contrary — that Cheney played some role in the leak.

But Alan Simpson, who truly does know Cheney well, says Cheney never did anything without either Bush’s sanction or approval. Which would imply that whatever Cheney did to leak Plame’s identity, he did with the approval of Bush…






61 replies
  1. 1
    lamh36 says:

    Speaking of Asshole Repubicans, have ya’ll sen this Anne Laurie?

    wow, the opposition to Obamacare sure “isn’t” about race! I refuse to link to Joe The Plumber’s website. I’d rather give Politicalwire the traffic..

    Remember Joe the Plumber?

    Joe Wurzelbacher, the everyman used by John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, writes, “America needs a white Republican president.”

    “Admit it. You want a white Republican president again. Now before you start feeling like you’re a racist, understand you are not. Wanting a white Republican president doesn’t make you racist, it just makes you American.”

  2. 2
    dmsilev says:

    @lamh36:

    Remember Joe the Plumber?

    I’ve been doing my level best not to.

  3. 3
    scav says:

    @lamh36: Been there, tried that, Would elect Green Eggs/Ham 2016 instead.

  4. 4
    NotMax says:

    Two pigs, one lipstick.

  5. 5
    gogol's wife says:

    @lamh36:

    (finger down the throat)

  6. 6
    Ruckus says:

    @lamh36:
    Is he joe the plumber because he’s full of shit? Or because he worked with shit?

    Anyway you look at it when joe the plumber is mentioned, a pile of shit is not far away.

  7. 7
    MattF says:

    The book’s message is that I ought to be impressed that GWB did one ethical thing while he was President. Welp, I admit, I’m just not feeling it…

  8. 8
    aimai says:

    The marcy wheeler thing is the weirdest sort of analysis. Simpson has, indeed, known Cheney a very long time and considers him a close personal friend. But that doesn’t mean that something Simpson said for public attribution has anything to do with the truth of the matter. Cheney may have told him that he “never did anything” bush didn’t approve of but that doesn’t make it true. He may have just left that impression with Simpson for his own purposes. Or Simpson, as a loyal friend, may prefer to believe that this is true for his own reasons. One public statement, or even a string of them, is not dispositive.

  9. 9
    scav says:

    @efgoldman: Yes, the very essence of honoring Southern Heritage usually consists of pissing on and protesting others that differ from you. To further illustrate the complications of geography, UNI elected a transgender homecoming queen.

  10. 10

    @efgoldman:

    Because, as we all know, Washington (admitted to the union in 1889) was the heart of the Confederacy.

    Americans are known for moving around a lot, so it’s entirely possible the kid does have Southern heritage. That doesn’t excuse his defense of slavery and treason, though.

  11. 11
    mdblanche says:

    @MattF: This book is supposed to be a defense? “Bush wasn’t a puppet, he was acting willfully” doesn’t strike me as a defense. It might even be the opposite of a defense.

  12. 12
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Isn’t slavery and treason the gist of southern heritage for a sizable percentage of southerners?

  13. 13
    Elizabelle says:

    NYTimes has had that story atop their website for about 3 days, and just cannot stand to read it.

    The readers’ comments are savaging the attempt at rehabilitating GWBush.

    Cheney is beyond redemption.

  14. 14
    Elizabelle says:

    @NotMax:

    Two pigs, one lipstick.

    Love your comment.

  15. 15

    That book excerpt is bizarre. It may technically be telling the truth, but Bush’s entire presidency from beginning to end was a catastrophic series of fuckups and failures. You can’t just throw a tablecloth over that elephant with ‘failure to find the weapons that led to the invasion’. The absolute clusterfuck of incompetence and wrongheadedness is what defines Bush’s presidency, and if you do not include that context any description of events is wildly deceptive.

  16. 16
    Tom Q says:

    A small thing that bothered me here: Citing FDR/Truman having only 2 official meetings sounds a bit more dire than it actually was, considering they were only in office together for about 80 days. A time during which FDR was just a bit busy with, you know, THE WAR. If the Bush/Cheney relationship was really that extraordinary, there should have been some more recent, elaborate statistic to back it up.

  17. 17
    MattF says:

    @mdblanche: The excerpt from the NYT magazine was about GWB deciding not to pardon Libby in the face of Cheney’s insistence that it would be the right thing to do. So, yes, GWB did the right thing in that case. Otherwise, I agree with you.

  18. 18

    @aimai:
    It’s even possible that there was a legitimate miscommunication between Bush and Cheney on the matter. Bush might have asked Cheney to get Wilson out of the news, assuming that he would use persuasion or release some more documents that proved he was full of shit (assuming Bush believed the Yellow Cake crap) and Cheney assumed that meant to shut him up by means fair or foul and chose foul. That kind of misunderstanding happens, and it’s frequently the cause of a break in a relationship.

  19. 19
    MikeJ says:

    @efgoldman:

    Because, as we all know, Washington (admitted to the union in 1889) was the heart of the Confederacy.

    I’m from the south and I live in Washington. People move all the time.

    It’s a pity kids haven’t been taught properly about southern treason. There’s no difference between a confederate flag and a swastika.

  20. 20
    jefft452 says:

    @Ruckus: “Is he joe the plumber because he’s full of shit?”

    no, because “Sam the welfare bum” didn’t sound as good

  21. 21
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Because he had no aspiration to ever run for president himself, he was able to focus on making Bush’s presidency successful

    I don’t think the word successful means what they think it means.

  22. 22
    Liquid says:

    @Roger Moore: What were those rebel swine doing west of the Cascades?

  23. 23
    billgerat says:

    @efgoldman:@Ruckus My father grew up in Georgia, and for someone who was raised during the age of segregation he’s pretty progressive; that’s not to say that he doesn’t have a few unfortunate biases. Yet he has never once displayed the rebel flag and never will. And if Obama could run a third time, he’d vote for him again. BTW, we live in WA state.

  24. 24
    Chyron HR says:

    InB4 “Why didn’t Obama have Bush and his entire family arrested and/or executed immediately upon taking office?”

  25. 25
    shelly says:

    Cripes, as Free Republic would say, ‘Barf Alert!’

    Forgive me if I find it impossible to believe Cheney showing ‘deference’ to anybody.

  26. 26
    Amir Khalid says:

    Because he had no aspiration to ever run for president himself, he was able to focus on making Bush’s presidency successful

    Given the “success” that loyal VP Dick Cheney made of George Walker Bush’s presidency, it makes me shudder to imagine what could have happened, had Cheney left Bush unattended.

  27. 27

    @MikeJ:

    There’s no difference between a confederate flag and a swastika.

    Sure there is. The swastika is an ancient symbol used by people long before the Nazis that has unfortunately been completely ruined for everyone by their association. The Confederate battle flag has no associations apart from the Confederate one and has been much more effectively rehabilitated.

  28. 28

    @Amir Khalid:

    Given the “success” that loyal VP Dick Cheney made of George Walker Bush’s presidency, it makes me shudder to imagine what could have happened, had Cheney left Bush unattended.

    He would have failed at smaller things instead of succeeding in great evil.

  29. 29
    dogwood says:

    @Elizabelle:
    I read it. I did’t find it to be rehabilitative. The excerpt is about the timeline surrounding the request for Libby’s pardon. Essentially the lawyers gave advise, Cheney lobbied hard and Bush awkwardly split the difference. Cheney doesn’t come off particularly well even if the piece doesn’t describe him the way liberals would like. Bush comes off as a typical president making an uncomfortable political decision. Maybe the book is intended to rehabilitate Bush and Cheney, but if this excerpt is the highlight, it misses the mark.

  30. 30
    mellowjohn says:

    just a brief reminder that “Bush put (Cheney) on the ticket in 2000 to balance his own inexperience.”

    cheney was the appointed head of bush’s v-p search committee and – surprise, surprise – decided that some guy named dick cheney was the best choice.

  31. 31
    TR says:

    FDR’s appointments calendar only showed two meetings with Truman after they were inaugurated?

    Lets break that down. The inauguration was late Jan 1945 and FDR died in mid April 1945. The Yalta conference was the first week of February, which meant that FDR was traveling to and attending it for the better part of a month. And after that, FDR took a long visit to Warm Springs to recuperate in mid March until he died.

    So two scheduled appointments in about three weeks when the two men both were in DC. The horror!

  32. 32
    scav says:

    Read it earlier and the whole Bush as Alpha Male sounded like more sock-in-codpiece-stuffing, with the added benefit of making the strutting he-man the full scapegoat for that admin, one they’re trying to shed responsibity for as a whole.

  33. 33
    MattF says:

    @mellowjohn: “I looked for someone who could appear to be deferential and still have an insatiable lust for power.”

  34. 34
  35. 35
    RaflW says:

    he was able to focus on making Bush’s presidency successful — though on terms that he helped define.

    W.T.F.

    Successful, defined how?

  36. 36
    Barry says:

    One reason which people rarely point out is that if Libby had been pardoned, the prosecutor could have had him in court the next day, under subpoena, with no Fifth Amendment rights, but in jeopardy of perjury. As it was, he was spared most of the penalties, but was still able to assert his right against self-incrimination.

  37. 37
    Tokyokie says:

    I agree with the general proposition that Cheney didn’t do anything of which Shrub disapproved, but only inasmuch as Cheney was always planting ideas in the Shrub’s uncluttered mind, then agreeing with the brilliance of those ideas once Shrub managed to restate them. That’s how one manipulates lazy, entitled boobs.

  38. 38
    Ruckus says:

    @billgerat:
    That’s why I implied many and did not state all or even most.
    I have friends in the south, and I don’t make friends with conservatives, known racists, bigots and otherwise general assholes.

  39. 39
    stickler says:

    @TR: Yeah, but Truman later told us that he knew almost nothing about FDR’s diplomacy and absolutely nothing about the Manhattan Project until after he was sworn in.

    Imagine that! This country got damned lucky with Give ’em Hell Harry — he was plunked down in the Oval Office with almost no preparation whatsoever, had to manage the end of the war in Europe, the confrontation with Stalin, the decision whether (and in what manner) to use the A-bomb, how to deal with defeated Japan, and the transition to a peacetime economy and the demobilization of millions of soldiers. Oh, and a starving and devastated Europe, a bankrupt UK that wanted to keep its empire intact, ditto with France, and vibrant Communist parties in Western Europe. And that was just the first year!

  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    @Tokyokie:
    Boobs are nice and have an actual worthwhile function in the general scheme of things.
    Darth cheney is the exact opposite. A major asshole and no worthwhile function other than being a major asshole that I can fathom. Same goes for shrub.

  41. 41
    Tokyokie says:

    @Ruckus: Whereas I agree Shrub is a major asshole, I think Cheney’s at least a full colonel asshole.

  42. 42
    Ruckus says:

    @Tokyokie:
    I’d rate them both much higher than that. Three and four stars in your system.
    YMMV.

  43. 43
    Dead Ernest says:

    @NotMax:

    Two pigs, one lipstick.

    Damn, NotMax. Just fucking sublime.

    ::rises from seat, pulls lighter from tuxedo pocket, holds flame aloft::

  44. 44
    dogwood says:

    @TR:
    The whole thing about the relationship between presidents and their vp’s needs to be contextualized doesn’t it? I noticed the goofy Truman reference as well. With the 24 hour news cycle scrutiny always on the White House, VP’s become more visible. Therefore they naturally have to be kept in the loop. The fact that Bush and Cheney met daily wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that a president who came to office without much of a coherent world view so uncritically adopted the views of Cheney.

    Also too, it would be more interesting to see how often FDR met with JNG. He might have been more in the loop (I doubt it) but he sure wasn’t singing from the same aria.

  45. 45
    Biscuits says:

    @efgoldman:

    I was driving north on I-5 just by Safeco field a few days ago when a big pickup truck passed me with a huge rebel flag flying out the back. All I could think was take that sh*t back were you came from and gross. I’m sure the guy was just proudly displaying his southern heritage or something. What a goon. I will never understand these people and honestly am glad for it.

  46. 46
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @scav: Whoo hoo! My alma mater is awe. some. I love this story. Thanks for sharing it here.

  47. 47
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @scav: More goodness from that article:

    Sanchez nominated himself for the title in a new court application process instated last year by the Campus Activities Board…

    UNI had not had a homecoming court since the 1970s.

  48. 48
    TG Chicago says:

    Cheney’s calm hand in the bunker that day [9/11]…

    You mean the “calm hand” that was demanding that the military shoot down American passenger planes without authority?

  49. 49
    Ruckus says:

    @Dead Ernest:
    Your reflection on NotMax’s comment is not bad either.

  50. 50

    @TG Chicago:

    You mean the “calm hand” that was demanding that the military shoot down American passenger planes without authority?

    I think they’re talking about his calmness in fleeing to a bunker undisclosed location. Running and hiding is the surest sign of nerves of steel.

  51. 51
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @shelly:

    To this day, I don’t believe for one nanosecond that he threw his back out “packing up boxes” right before Inauguration Day 2009, forcing him to attend the swearing-in ceremonies in a wheelchair. What a shame he was just physically unable to stand in respect to the new POTUS, right?

    He disgusts me. I rarely wish ill on anyone, but I’m happy to make an exception for this scumbucket. He can’t die soon enough, and I will rejoice when I hear the news. Fuck him and damn him for all eternity.

  52. 52
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    (I know I’m gonna get into big trouble with Karma for this.)

  53. 53
    Steeplejack says:

    But Alan Simpson, who truly does know Cheney well, says Cheney never did anything without either Bush’s sanction or approval. Which would imply that whatever Cheney did to leak Plame’s identity, he did with the approval of Bush.

    Or it could imply that Simpson is covering his best bud Cheney’s ass against accusations of going rogue and acting without authorization. Especially since at this point Bush is unlikely to step forward and contradict him.

    ETA: Also, what Aimai said.

  54. 54
    dogwood says:

    Look, W was a disaster as president , but he’s not in Cheney’s league of evil. You only have to compare the Bush twins to Mary Cheney to see how ugly the Cheney family is from top to bottom.

  55. 55
    joel hanes says:

    @Barry:

    if Libby had been pardoned, the prosecutor could have had him in court the next day, under subpoena

    Bingo.

  56. 56

    …Dubya totally did not ask ‘how high’ whenever Darth Cheney said ‘jump’…

    These two deserve prison cells across from each other. For ten jillion years.

  57. 57

    @dogwood: That sets an awesomely low bar. So low, it’s more like a crack in the sidewalk.

  58. 58
    catclub says:

    GW Bush told Cheney to pound sand when Cheney wanted to bomb Iran. For that I give GW Bush full marks.

  59. 59
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    (I know I’m gonna get into big trouble with Karma for this.)

    You will be far from alone.

  60. 60
    AxelFoley says:

    @scav:

    @lamh36: Been there, tried that, Would elect Green Eggs/Ham 2016 instead.

    Your internets–would you like it sent Next Day Air or Ground?

  61. 61
    Cola Vaughan says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Not exactly: I believe the Confederate Flag or at least the “X” cross part of it known as the saltire, is a representation of the Cross of St Andrew, and also derivative of the battle flag of Scotland; so that would make that part of the flag as old as, well, St Andrew, the first of the 12 disciples, who left everything behind to follow Jesus, and brought his brother with him. Legend has it he was crucified on a cross with the “X” shape. I’ll leave it to you all to ponder the irony.

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