Speaking of Cheney’s unconstitutional power-grab of presidential powers, TPM’s David Kurtz asks “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?”
Well I happen to know the answer to that one: Bush doesn’t know and Bush doesn’t care. Bush doesn’t know because Cheney placed his own men in key positions in the Bush Administration, who are loyal to him and filter everything through Cheney’s office. I heard about that on NPR awhile back. Cheney’s had a lot of experience in various administrations and knew where to put these key people.
And so there’s almost nothing that Bush hears or sees that hasn’t already been filtered by Cheney and his people. So if Cheney wants something done, he just has his people dress-up the facts so the only attractive option is the one he wants picked. And for creepy ideologues like them, that’s what they’d be doing even if Cheney were president. But it’s all the more necessary if they want to influence Bush into choosing the “right” options.
And then there’s the fact that Bush, Rove, and their like-minded minions only see policy matters as a means of manipulating politics. But they don’t see it as a critical thing on its own, so they don’t really focus on it. They just want anything that makes the Republican Party stronger.
But Cheney’s not like that. His concern for the Republican Party only extends as far as it can be used to help him. Because that’s what he does. He’s a power-hungry parasite that latches on to any powerful person or group and sucks them dry for all they’re worth. His bio simply reeks of this. He’s never earned any position he’s had. He’s simply BS’d his way to the top, by convincing important people to give him important responsibilities that would normally take years of loyal service to acquire. But the only person Cheney is loyal to is himself.
And another reason for this was simply that Bush abhors work; especially the boring and complicated kind. He always expected everything to be handed to him, simply because he deserved it. And he never really liked being president. He liked running for president, and meeting people, and making speeches, and being adored; but he doesn’t like the actual presidenting part. He especially liked the political maneuvering aspects of it all and winning, but when it came to reading reports and making mundane decisions, he’d rather be on vacation.
And so that explains how “macho” Bush could allow this to happen. He didn’t want the powers Cheney took, and didn’t even know that they were taken. He saw it as “delegating”. All the power-grabbing happened at the staff level, before anything appeared on Bush’s radar, and Bush trusts his staff completely. Why wouldn’t he? They always told him what he wanted to hear.
Trusting the Experts
And about that, let me just say that as a CPA, not one of my clients doubts anything I put on a tax return. When I tell them what their tax situation is and what the tax laws are, they have no other choice than to sign the return and hope for the best. But they don’t hope. They trust me. Some of the better ones will go page-by-page looking over it, but even they wouldn’t know the first thing to question me about. And most of them don’t even want to bother looking at it. They just sign it and give it back to me to mail. And while I’d like for them to know more about the tax return, this stuff really is too complex for the average layman to pick up. That’s why they hired me in the first place.
And that’s exactly what Bush has done. He doesn’t know anything about constitutional powers. He doesn’t know the Geneva Conventions. He doesn’t understand environmental concerns and his grasp of economics is probably limited to a few entry-level classes he took many decades ago…that he got C’s in. In other words, he is totally at their mercy.
But so are most presidents. Clinton, Bush Sr., and others are likely to have been at the mercy of their experts, but the difference is that they understood their limitations. And more importantly, they knew how to ask questions to uncover bullshit. But Bush can’t do that. Not only is he an uncurious person who only hears what he wants to hear, but he’s so ignorant that he surrounded himself with non-experts. People who believe that “expertise” is a con-game that anyone can play. If you act like an expert, you are one. And besides, Bush resents real experts, because he doesn’t like the idea of people being better than him at anything.
So they feed him all kinds of bullshit about the powers he has and the best policy options, and he believes it. Not necessarily because he wanted to (though he did), but because that’s what Cheney’s people told him. His “experts” were Cheney’s men telling him what Cheney wanted them to hear.
Fooling Bush’s Brain
And so that’s how Cheney took these powers. It’s not some grand conspiracy or magic spell. Cheney just out-smarted them all at a game they didn’t even know they were playing. Bush, Rove, and the non-Cheney’s were so busy trying to con the American people into voting Republican that they hadn’t realized how much power Cheney really wielded, or that all of their political calculations were being undermined by Cheney’s dangerous policies.
And that’s the way that most con-games are played. You can’t be conned unless you want to be, and so con-artists play to your greedy side and make you so interested in making money or ripping someone else off that you don’t even notice you’re getting ripped off.
Sure, Cheney’s cherry-picked information fit nicely into what Rove wanted for his political maneuverings, but he surely would have chosen differently, had he had real experts to rely upon, instead of Cheney’s handpicked goons. The disaster in Iraq is the biggest example of this, as it has essentially destroyed Bush, and ruined Rove’s reputation; and real experts would have told them they were playing with fire. If nothing else, Rove should have picked a smaller target for his “War President” to attack. I believe Afghanistan would have done quite nicely; and Cheney helped Bush even blow that one.
But we see the same in every case. Rove was misled about what their policy options were and repeatedly backed the wrong horse. He’s a very intelligent man when it comes to politics and playing dirty, but he got completely skunked on the policy front. Because the disaster of the war, our huge deficits, and everything else Cheney-esque has only served to set back Rove’s Republican Revolution for decades. Rove’s mentor, Nixon, had no problems with pimping liberal policies when it suited his political interests, but Rove has been duped by conservatives who conned their way into representing all Republican policy interests.
And sure, Rove fully understood that, but that only shows how little he really understood about how utterly disastrous those policies were. Had he real experts to rely upon, Rove would surely have picked more successful policies. But again, he only understood politics, not policy. Now imagine if Rove had been convinced of the dangers of Iraq and deficits. Bush would surely be above 50% in the approval ratings.
Oh, and one last point: Even what Kurtz suggests is Bush’s “macho public demonstrations of his own personal strength and courage” is just what seeped through from Cheney. Sure, he’d like to believe it, but this is yet another of Cheney’s policy ideas that Bush has unwittingly adopted. Cheney’s the one who projects total confidence in even his most obviously incompetent dealings, and Bush was the boob who had always gotten by in life as a nice-guy joker.
Sure, he was always a selfish prick underneath it all, but he knew how to project his prickiness into self-deprecating humor and a veneer of nice-guyness. That’s how he was when he was my governor those many years ago. It was only once Darth Cheney’s influence was put on him that he restructured his self-image to see himself as strong and decisive.
So beyond merely stealing the country for his own benefit; Dick Cheney has stolen the president’s personality and replaced it with his own. And with everything else going on in the country, Bush will again be the last to know.