27 June 2007

Resident Evil

Vice President Dick Cheney, and his counsel, David Addington, are the drivers behind almost everything evil that has been done in the administration of George W. Bush. This is the conclusion of Marty Lederman at Balkinization who makes the argument persausively, supported largely by continuing coverage of Dick Cheney at the Washington Post (emphasis in the original):

[A]s we have recounted in the NSA/FISA matter and elsewhere, and as Gellman and Becker elaborate at great length, virtually any time Cheney and Addington adopt an extreme position, they are met with strong resistance from many conservatives within the Bush Administration -- including many important players at DOJ (Ashcroft, Comey, Goldmsith, Philbin, Olson, Clement, etc.), and elsewhere (Rice, Gates, Powell, Bellinger, Waxman, Kavanaugh, Berenson, etc.) Not to mention huge swaths of the intelligence agencies, the State Department, the uniformed military (especially the JAGs), et al. If you have any friends who have served in this Administration, you know that there are countless very conservative supporters of this President within the government who have constantly been at loggerheads with Cheney and Addington, and who simply cannot believe the positions adopted by (and, frequently, the terrible misjudgments of) the Vice President's office. And they are even more incredulous that those positions have, rountinely, become state policy, no matter the amount or intensity of dissent from other components of the Administration.

And yet . . . the Vice President does consistently prevails in the internal debates. He wins virtually every battle -- or at least bollixes things up sufficiently to prevent others from prevailing. . . .

This is the great mystery of the Bush Administration, and the question that no one, including Gellman and Becker, has answered: It's not very newsworthy that the Vice President has strongly held views, and that he fights hard for them. (So did Vice President Gore.) Nor is it even terribly notable that he is constantly opposed by others in the Administration. What is remarkable is that time and again, Cheney wins. . . .

Gellman and Becker provide part of the answer -- namely, that Cheney and Addington are more astute and clever and ruthless than everyone else: "The vice president's unseen victories attest to traits that are often ascribed to him but are hard to demonstrate from the public record: thoroughgoing secrecy, persistence of focus, tactical flexibility in service of fixed aims and close knowledge of the power map of government. On critical decisions for more than six years, Cheney has often controlled the pivot points -- tipping the outcome when he could, engineering a stalemate when he could not and reopening debates that rivals thought were resolved."

But the larger explanation, of course, is that Cheney wins internal battles because the President constantly sides with Cheney over all his other trusted advisers. . . .

And so the $64,000 Question is: Why has this President, unlike every other, so uncritically deferred to the Vice President, even where the rest of his Administration is begging him not to do so? . . . I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the uncompromising nature of the Cheney and Addington worldview appeals to the Manichean side of Bush that emerged in full force post-9/11.

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