Back On The Cheney Gang
What we have witnessed this week could very well be the end of the political career of Richard B. Cheney. I think there's a very good possibility he will be asked to step down, though I doubt he would do so unless he was indicted. This is a watershed week in American history, when the full extent of the lawbreaking and dirty tactics of this Administration are just now coming to light.
It actually started late last week, when Lawrence Wilkerson revealed that in 2003 Iran, then under the Presidency of reformer Mohammed Khatami, came to the United States with a deal to help get Iraq under control, and to stop their financing of Hezbollah and Hamas. Dick Cheney squashed it, though the State Department showed interest. Dick Cheney, at the time, had taken over the entire foreign policy apparatus and arrogated its power unto himself. And this failure to talk with Iran indirectly led to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a bolstering of the hardline stance in the country.
Then the Libby trial kicked off this week, and yesterday's testimony showed the lengths to which Cheney was personally involved in the discrediting of Amb. Joseph Wilson.
In the first such account from Vice President Dick Cheney's inner circle, a former aide testified Thursday that Cheney personally directed the effort to discredit an administration critic by having calls made to reporters in 2003.
Cheney dictated detailed "talking points" for his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and others on how they could impugn the critic's credibility, said Catherine J. Martin, who was the vice president's top press aide at the time.
For the purposes of the trial, Martin detailed that she told Libby about Plame a month before Libby claimed to the grand jury that he heard from reporters. For the purposes of Dick Cheney's career, it's devastating. At the time, the insurgency was just taking root, and the WMD claims were looking more and more to have been exaggerated. In this environment, what mattered to Cheney was not how to deal with postwar Iraq or how to ensure the intelligence services don't get it so wrong again, but how to silence a critic. And it was extremely hands-on, not a general "get my side of the story out" but hand-written details about how he wanted Wilson rebutted. This is a portrait of a Vice President run totally amok, lying his head off and plotting revenge for anyone who called him on it. And, as Dana Milbank noted (I bashed him yesterday, but this is good stuff today), Cheney used the media as a weapon in his propaganda war:
Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.
This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."
"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."
Ten bucks that Russert comes out pounding whoever he's got on this week, taking it out on them. But the truth hurts.
Add to all of this Cheney's CNN freakout the other day, and then this astounding report from the new chair of the House Intelligence Committee:
Vice President Dick Cheney exerted “constant” pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel’s Democratic chairman charged Thursday.
In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia … said that it was “not hearsay” that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence.
“It was just constant,” Rockefeller said of Cheney’s alleged interference. He added that he knew that the vice president attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to Republican senators.
Republicans “just had to go along with the administration,” he said.
Cheney was running roughshod over his critics, top-level staffers in the Cabinet, the Senate... everyone. He took as much power as he could and dared anyone to stop him. The result is that now all of these examples are coming to the surface, and Cheney is completely on the defensive. He can't even get through a simple softie interview with Leslie Blitzer without blowing his stack. And he's about to have to take the stand in the Libby case. That will be the moment to end all moments.
This feels very Spiro T. Agnew circa 1973 to me. I really think there's an outside chance that the Vice President would be forced to resign. I can't imagine who would leap to his defense at this point.