Washington, D.C.— Last week the Bush campaign dispatched Dick Cheney—John Wayne tough guy and the GOP’s most skilled political operative—out into the pro-Bush countryside with side forays to possible pro-Kerry states so he could rally the right-wing base with the bottom-line election theme: the “historic transformation” of Iraq. “We have kept our word,” Cheney said. “Saddam Hussein is no longer tormenting the Iraqi people. After three decades, the Iraqi people have their country back.” He added, “Though Iraq has been returned to its rightful owners . . . more violence can be expected in the days and weeks ahead. The Iraqi people still face determined adversaries.” He linked D-Day to Iraq, declaring, “It was not easy then. It is not easy now.” He insisted that Al Qaeda was in cahoots with Saddam, and he suggested that Saddam played a part in 9-11. This is the theme of Bush’s re-election campaign.
Cheney was fresh from a bravura performance escorting Nancy Reagan to her husband’s coffin at the Capitol, later making by far the best speech of the funeral week. Then he once again delighted the Republican faithful by telling liberal Dem Patrick Leahy to go “fuck yourself” in an aside on the Senate floor concerning Halliburton.
Now it’s time to see how well Cheney holds up in the culture war against Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bill Clinton’s autobiography. The conservatives have been in the trenches against Hollywood for 20 years, so it’s a little hard to see why they’d be much flustered by Moore’s film. As for Clinton, the mere mention of his or his wife’s name sends the right-wingers into a frothing race to the polls. Cheney’s trek was scheduled to take him from New Orleans to Georgia and then through Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. “This could be a test to see whether Cheney out there campaigning helps the president or helps the Democrats,” Rhodes College professor Michael Nelson told the Hot Line. “The kind of response he gets on this trip could offer some real evidence about how viable he is on the ticket this time.”
Besides the questions about his conflict of interest concerning Halliburton, the administration’s efforts to stonewall the 9-11 investigation, and the energy task force cover-up, Cheney’s extraordinary role in dishing out orders on 9-11 while the president schmoozed with kids in Florida is making some people mad as hell. “If this nation is ever again the object of a terrorist or a military attack, I hope the vice president will keep his mouth shut,” wrote Gary Jacobson of the Manassas (Virginia) Messenger last week. “The reason: Mr. Cheney is not part of the military command structure. Neither the U.S. Constitution nor any federal laws give him the authority to issue commands to military forces. In particular, no federal law gives the vice president the authority to order fighter jets to shoot down civilian aircraft that he thinks have been taken over by terrorists.”
He continued, “Since Mr. Cheney never served a day in the armed forces, it is not surprising that he doesn’t know much about the chain of command. Well, let me enlighten him. Authority runs from the commander-in-chief to the secretary of defense to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the commanders of unified and specified commands. The vice president is not a player.”
Arnold Beichman of the rightist Hoover Institute, writing on the Washington Times op-ed page, has had enough of Cheney and wants to go with Condoleezza Rice: “It is now time to open a new dramatic episode in American history, one that would show the world what our democracy means: the choice of an extraordinarily talented African American woman to run for president of the United States on the Republican ticket, the party of Abraham Lincoln.”