Monday, February 05, 2007

Digby, David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo, and Steve Benen at the Caretbagger Report have been talking about Dick Cheney --specifically about whether he's been running the show at the White House for six years.

Kurtz asks an interesting question:

How is it that Bush, who is so caught up in macho public demonstrations of his own personal strength and courage, can tolerate a shadow presidency within his own White House? What kind of spell has Cheney cast that allows Bush to continue to believe he is the decider?

Digby answers:

It's not hard for me to imagine at all. Arrogant morons are very easy to manipulate. You just tell them what to think and then tell them they thought of it.

Steve adds:

Bush, for all of his misplaced arrogance, is probably aware of his deficiencies, and gladly turns to Cheney to do the "hard work." You’ll remember, of course, that Bush refused to speak to the 9/11 Commission unless Cheney was there next to him, at the same time. One assumes Bush would let Cheney do presidential press conferences, too, if he thought he could get away with it.

The president probably tells himself he's above all of the unpleasant details of governing, and gladly delegates serious responsibilities (which is to say, everything a president is supposed to do) to the old hand who tells him not to worry about anything.

I think Steve is basically right -- though "aware of his deficiencies" is not quite how I'd put it. Bush may not trouble his head with details, but I bet he thinks that's a virtue, a sign of his own normality. I'm sure he thinks that sweating the details is for eggheads and monomaniacs.

Bush has always kept a lot of people like that around -- brainiacs and people Bush thinks are brainiacs. Rove. Rice. In his mind, probably Harriet Miers. He wants loyal wonks (or wonks manque) around him, but he'd sure as hell never want to be one.

And I don't know that I'd say about Bush, "You just tell [him] what to think and then tell [him he] thought of it." Really, how much conflict is there between what Cheney wants and what Bush wants? Cheney wanted war. Bush wanted to be a big hero. Cheney wanted unlimited power for the executive branch. Bush wanted to get his own way all the time. Cheney wanted to direct as much money as possible to the oil companies. Bush ... do I really have to go on?

I don't believe he and Cheney disagree much. I bet all Cheney has to do is frame Cheneyesque ideas in Bush-like terms. Forget, for instance, the nuances of the neocon view of power relations in the Arab/Muslim world -- just talk about Evil. Forget the theory of the unitary executive -- just say it's important to keep as much power as possible out of the hands of horrible liberal Democrats in Congress.

Yeah, Bush says he's "the Decider," but I bet all he means by that is that he wants is to be the guy at the very end of the process who makes the Big, Important Final Decision. On everything up to that, I imagine he's quite easy to manipulate, as long as you can tell him afterward that he's being a world-historical giant and/or pissing liberals off.

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