Sunday, August 10, 2008


I'm going to ignore the gist of Maureen Dowd's latest column (except to give thanks for small blessings -- her predictable fascination with the John Edwards scandal means she went an entire column without belittling Barack Obama, something that probably won't happen again between now and Election Day).

But I did want to talk about this paragraph:

For some reason, super-strivers have a need to sell what is secretly weakest about themselves, as if they yearn for unmasking. Edwards's decency and concern for the weak in society -- except for his own wife. Bill Clinton's intellect and love of community -- except for his stupidity and destructiveness about Monica. Bush the Younger's jocular, I'm-in-charge self-confidence -- except for turning over his presidency, as no president ever has, to his Veep. Eliot Spitzer's crusade for truth, justice and the American way -- except at home.

The Edwards and Spitzer references make sense. With regard to Clinton, I don't know what the hell she's getting at. (If she'd said he sold New Democrat communitarian moralism -- V-chips and so on -- as a substitute for right-wing moralism, all the while consorting with Monica, that would at least make some kind of sense.)

But Bush? I don't think, in his mind, that there's any inconsistency between his Decider posture and his aversion to detail-sweating. For Bush, as for many old-money preppies, the whole point of being in charge is that you have people to do things for you. True power means you hardly ever have to do a damn thing, and yet you're the Alpha Dog.

I'm not saying this isn't ridiculous. Of course it is. I'm saying that Bush doesn't think this is what's "secretly weakest" about himself -- he thinks you and I just don't understand how real Decideriness works.

Dick Cheney, of course, understands perfectly, as we learned from The Washington Post last year:

...Scores of interviews with advisers to the president and vice president, as well as with other senior officials throughout the government, offer a backstage view of how the Bush White House operates. The president is "the decider," as Bush puts it, but the vice president often serves up his menu of choices.

..."My impression is that the president thinks that the Reagan style of leadership is best -- guiding the ship of state from high up on the mast," said former White House lawyer Bradford A. Berenson. "It seems to me that the vice president is more willing to get down in the wheelhouse below the decks."

...It is well known that Cheney is usually the last to speak to the president before Bush makes a decision....

And this is goodmbecause it makes the president even more powerful!

...[Ron] Suskind [in his book The Way of the World] contends Cheney established "deniability" for Bush as part of the vice president's "complex strategies, developed over decades, for how to protect a president."

"After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn't know -- things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

"They key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something
he'd authorized. The whole point of Cheney's model is to make a president less accountable for his action...."

See? Giving up power isn't a sign that you're giving up power. Giving up power is a supersecret way to get even more power!

It's brilliant!

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