The Agony of Dick

Everybody is talking about Dick the Dick’s exploding head book. I take it it’s mostly a work of fiction, since Dick’s recollection of events doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s. All kinds of people with firsthand knowledge of events are coming forward to say Dick is just making stuff up.

But IMO the single most interesting semi-revelation from the book is the degree to which Dick was the acting head of the Bush Administration during Bush’s first term — which we knew — but not the second term.

Jefferson Morley, analyzing Cheney’s self-aggrandizing account, says Cheney portrays himself making foreign policy and cabinet decisions without even consulting the President. He seems to have assumed Bush would approve of his decisions without having to ask.

But the reign of Cheney ended in 2006. Morley writes,

In November 2006, Bush fired Rumsfeld without asking for the vice president’s opinion. For the first time in five years, Bush started making key decisions on his own.

Cheney’s account turns petulant at this point. After 2006, no one in the Bush administration (besides Cheney) can do much good. The new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mistreated two top generals. Secretary of State Condi Rice was so eager to reach an agreement with North Korea she issued a public statement that was “utterly misleading.” And President Bush had failed by acting on her recommendations, not his.

Get this —

“The process and the decision that followed seemed so out of keeping with the clearheaded ways I had seen him make decisions in the past,” he writes with surprise.

What had changed was that Cheney no longer dominated the process of presidential decision-making on foreign policy. He was merely the vice president.

Very sick.

This is from ABC News

He reserves much of his ire for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now Powell and his longtime aide and chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are attempting to set the record straight. In no uncertain terms. Cheney, Wilkerson told ABC News, “was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration” and “fears being tried as a war criminal.”

Again, Dick was president during the first term, but not the second one. In foreign policy, Condi took his place. Not that she was much of an improvement.

BTW, you might remember that Bush asked for Rummy’s resignation not because of some failure in Iraq, but because Republicans had just been slaughtered in the 2006 midterms. Karl Rove would resign the following August. The Bush White House was in some kind of meltdown by then, it seems, and Bush appears to have changed his mind about who to trust. It’s water under the bridge now, but someday the real history of the Bush Administration will be written, and I suspect the last three years were especially surreal.

See also “Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney.”

Libertarian Fascism

Michael Lind makes connections between some of the icons of libertarianism — i.e., Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, the Cato Institute — and fascism. Not a total surprise, of course, but there were details I did not know, such as the ties between Hayak and Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Also, when Chile began transitioning to democracy, Milton Friedman mourned the loss of a “free society” that was being dismantled by “the emergence of the welfare state.” The thousands who “disappeared” while Pinochet was in charge didn’t count for much to Friedman.