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Cheney In Wonderland

I’ve been trying to write a post about Dick Cheney’s autobiography for weeks now. I highlighted every single demonstrably wrong thing that he said in the book, with the intention of debunking it all one by one. I even went as far as to read the awful George Tenet book that I couldn’t get through when it originally came out. I looked up statements from Colin Powell, Condi, and even George W Bush refuting Cheney’s claims. I was armed and ready to fire away at the book. But when I started writing that post, I realized that this approach was both pointless, and a waste.

It was pointless because any diligent follower of politics already knows the facts about Iraq, Bin Laden, and Katrina. It would have been a waste of a post because I would have to completely skip over the things that really struck me about Cheney in this book.

So I’m going to write a post about my impressions and observations of Dick Cheney, as a result of reading his book because I think it will make for more interesting reading.

The first thing that struck me about the book is that the prologue, the fucking prologue is the day of 9/11. Seriously, Dick? First of all, he obviously has no idea what purpose a prologue is supposed to serve. Secondly, the worst goddamned day in American history is the thing he’s salivating to talk about first?

I can’t understate how much Cheney gives the impression that he was running the show on that day. In his version of the story, he was literally calling all the shots because of “communication issues” on the president’s end. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to believe this account because I remember Bush’s famous “My Pet Goat” seven minutes. There was nothing in that performance that told me he was prepared to deal with a kid with a skinned knee, let alone a major attack on America. I just find it fascinating that Cheney chose to say what he did. Most people, after having served a president, have the decorum to never ever malign or damage that president’s reputation or authority in any way. Not Cheney. He’s classless and feels no loyalty or respect for Bush (you’ll see more evidence of this later). He has no qualms sharing an account that makes the president look like a hapless rube while Cheney “has everything under control”.

At one point during that attack on that day, Cheney actually gave the order to shoot down flight 93 after it had gone off course. I don’t have a problem with the order being given under those circumstances. I have a problem with the fucking vice president giving that order, because the guy who was never legitimately elected to be president in the first place can’t (unsurprisingly) handle the job. He claims that he had approval from the president to give that order, but that statement isn’t at all consistent with the lack of communication between the two of them throughout the day.

So there are a few things that struck me about Cheney’s upbringing. They mostly struck me as odd, given the political ideology he advocated for later in life. He talks about his father who, while struggling to make ends meet while getting through college, decides to take a civil service exam and subsequently takes a government job instead of finishing college. He then takes another, higher paying government job. At one point in the book, he writes (about his father)

He was also proud of the pension that came with federal employment – a pride that I didn’t really understand until as an adult I had learned about the economic catastrophes that his parents and grandparents had experienced and that had shadowed his own youth. I’ve often reflected on how different was the utterly stable environment he provided for his family and wondered if because of that I have been able to take risks, to change directions, and to leave one career path for another with hardly a second thought.So let me get this straight, Dick: the government came in on a white horse and saved your family in a much more overt way than it helps the average American and yet, you join the party whose aim is to destroy government because it’s never helped anyone?

At this point in the book, I’m realizing that naming him Dick was nothing short of prophetic.

Another interesting event: in 1959 Dick was awarded a full scholarship (which included room and board) to Yale. He ended up getting kicked out for getting shitty grades. What kind of asshole pisses off the gift of a free ivy league education? And my first question about the grant is, was it a federally funded grant?

When he got back to Wyoming from Yale, he took a union job where, “I was earning $3.10 an hour, which was good pay in those days, and picking up a lot of overtime and time and a half.” It’s nice to see you enjoying the benefits of union membership, Dick.

At some point, he decides to go back to school and enrolls at the University of Wyoming because they had to take him regardless of his shitty academic record, because he had graduated from a Wyoming high school. Let me work through all of this; so Dick went to a socialist, state funded school because the government had a mandate that they had to take him? This fucking asshole has been the beneficiary of government handouts and regulations his whole miserable life. But his sucking off the government teat didn’t end there. While he was in school, he earned some extra money by reading to a veteran who had lost his sight. Dick’s $1.75 an hour was paid for by the granddaddy of all socialist medicine; the veteran’s administration.

I honestly can’t comprehend how someone can have so much disdain for government when they have directly benefitted from its existence in so many ways. But not learning lessons from life is an ongoing theme in Dick’s life.

At one point, he and Lynne are engaged so he starts saving money for their honeymoon. He gets a bad case of food poisoning and has to go to the hospital. He didn’t have any insurance, so he had to spend all of the money he had saved on medical bills. Here’s another example of Dick’s imperviousness to learning from facts and life experience. There are three kinds of people in the world; the kind that can empathize with people, even though they’ve never been in their shoes; the kind that can empathize with people only if they’ve been in their shoes; and then there’s Dick, the kind that have been in your shoes, but still want you to go fuck yourself because they’re wearing much more expensive shoes now. Look Dick, you didn’t have insurance because you couldn’t afford it. How about you learn something from that experience and apply that to your political ideology?

Another part that I found fascinating was when he talked about his draft dodging. The dodging wasn’t interesting, the way he ignored it was. Here’s everything he said about it, in its entirety:

Shortly after I began work on my PhD, I had turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft. In the days when I had been, I had received deferments as a student and father. Earlier, when I was doing line work, I had been classified 1-A, but draft numbers were low and I wasn’t called. If I had been, I would have been happy to serve.

I find it fascinating that there’s no emotion or explanation here at all. He doesn’t explain the deferments, doesn’t talk about how the possibility of drafted made him feel, nothing. Just says that he deferred (he left out that it was 5 times), and then contradicts his actions by saying that he would have been happy to serve. Okay Dick, that sounds plausible. And again, this is a guy who was terrified of dying in a battle. One would think that those days of worrying about getting drafted would have occurred to him when his administration started a war and an occupation. But no, not Dick! He’s got some kind of fucking Kevlar vest that deflects wisdom and learning.

Another interesting part – he’s talking about Nixon’s chances of getting reelected in 1972. He writes:

Richard Nixon’s reelection was far from a sure thing. It looked very much as though the war in Vietnam, which he had said when he was campaigning in 1968 he knew how to end, would be an issue in 1972. Meanwhile, the hefty bills for Lyndon Johnson’s determination to fight the war in Vietnam and fund his great society had come due.

There were two components I found interesting there. First, he had already had experience getting a president who kept pushing for an unpopular war reelected. But the second part is more important. His lack of self awareness in talking about Johnson’s “hefty bills” being due is unfuckingbelievable. This asshole went on to serve in an administration that never bothered to pay for a fucking thing they passed is whining about cleaning up after someone else’s financial mess? Seriously Dick?

A particularly galling part of the book is when he talks about the speech President Ford gave, announcing that America was done with Vietnam. He writes:

I remember distinctly that when he spoke those words, some people in the audience wanted to cry and some wanted to cheer, but there was an unmistakable sense of relief for all of us that transcended one’s view of the war. Indeed, even for me, and I had supported the effort, hearing the president say those words was welcome in a way it’s hard to describe. We had lost more than fifty-eight thousand young Americans in the war, and Vietnam had divided us as a nation for so long. The war in Southeast Asia had ended in an awful way, but at least it ended. It was over.

I was fucking livid, reading that paragraph and thinking about what he had pushed to do with Iraq. Either the emotion he speaks of here is complete bullshit, designed to make him appear to be less of a robot, or he learned jack shit from that experience. Are you picking up a pattern yet?

This post is already very long, so I’m going to get to the rest of the book in part 2, which is disturbing and twisted in a completely different way than part 1.


Anthony Weiner’s Penis May Have Saved Social Security

Which makes me a big fan of his penis. In fact, I may be a bigger fan of his penis than anyone he actually shared it with. Because of Anthony Weiner’s penis, Obama appears to be acting more like a democrat in a way that we haven’t seen since the campaign.

Why do I believe that Americans owe Anthony Weiner’s penis a big debt of gratitude? Because one day after losing that seat to republicans, Obama announces that he’s taking social security reform off the table. This is a complete reversal from every signal the administration has ever sent out on the topic of social security. We obviously have Anthony Weiner’s penis to thank for this.

This reversal may (I’m being a sunny optimist again) be good news for Obama’s testicles, since they appear to finally be dropping. We’ll see what happens over the next few days, but it appears that Obama is finally starting to realize that the problem isn’t that crazy, rabid liberals have unrealistic expectations. The problem is that that he has failed to protect the needs of the middle class.

I’m optimistic because I’ve come to expect nothing from Obama, in terms of standing up to teapublicans. So when he shows even the slightest hint of a spine, I’m overcome with joy and optimism. But I’m still a pragmatist, so I’m a little concerned about the statement the white house released on the matter. Here’s the statement:

“The president’s recommendation for deficit reduction will not include any changes to Social Security because, as the president has consistently said, he does not believe that Social Security is a driver of our near and medium term deficits”.

I’m concerned because the statement should have stated that social security has never added a dime to our deficit because it’s a deficit neutral program by design. He needs to start reframing issues, rather than talking about them in republican terms. He needs to make it clear that since social security is a deficit neutral program, that any objections to it are purely ideological. He needs to put this cutting social security bullshit to rest forever. He needs to dispel the lies about social security once and for all. He needs to articulate the facts that no one ever hears. He needs to let Americans know that 2011 is the first year that social security has paid out more than it’s collected. He needs to talk about the $2.5 trillion dollar surplus that social security has at this very moment. He needs to point out that social security is collecting 8% less than it was projected to collect because of income inequality. Regardless of how much someone makes, they’re done paying into the system once they’ve earned $106,800 a year. Since we have fewer people making $90,000 a year, and more people making upwards of $1,000,000 per year than ever before, the system is being strained by that wealth disparity. Obama needs to make these facts clear, not to garner support for social security (70% of us, liberals and teapublicans alike adamantly want social security to stay), but to bring the argument back to a fact-based framing.

I know, I know, he gives me an inch and I want a mile (did I mention how big a fan of Anthony Weiner’s penis I am?).

James Carville is advising the Obama administration to panic. I hope they do. Obama needs to radically change course, not out of fear of losing reelection, but out of duty to the American people. I frankly don’t give a shit about his reelection. If he stays on the course he’s been on, four more years of this shit is nothing I’m fearful of losing. He was elected by people that were hoping for change. He owes two and a half years of change that haven’t yet materialized.

I’m going a step further than Carville. Obama needs to take the fight to republicans. He needs to push for temporarily lowering the medicare and social security eligibility ages as part of his jobs plan. Anyone that is in their 60s is virtually unemployable in this economy. Lowering the eligibility age to 60 on both of those programs will enable some of those people to retire from the work force early, thereby lowering the unemployment rate right away. And he should make the argument that taking them out of the private insurance system will keep premiums flat for everyone else, since they won’t have to pay out those medical bills. At the same time, lowering the average of the medicare risk pool should help medicare.

This will make John Boehner’s head explode, since most Americans will be for it. He and all of the republican presidential hopefuls will have to run against Obama’s plan. He would force them to explain how they don’t give a shit about your mother or your grandmother and that they’re your problem to deal with, because anything else would be a big government intrusion in your life. Yeah, that’s going to play well.

Republicans have created an illusion of a version of a socialist lefty they want to fight against. I think that Obama should turn into an actual socialist lefty that they’re completely unprepared for.

I for one, hope that Anthony Weiner’s penis is actually powerful enough to help make my dream a reality.