When Dick Cheney analogized the Iraq War the other day to Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, the Gordian knot unraveled around the perpetual War in Iraq. Now Cheney was suggesting that Iraq, like the pardon, was politically unpopular, but the right thing to do. The merits of this argument notwithstanding, the statement revealed the origins of the current predicament in Iraq.
More than anything else, the Iraq war is about power, or as Cheney once told Rolling Stone, it is about pushing that ball up the hill and not letting anyone else push it back down. Cheney is a fan of unitary executive power because his office is in the executive branch (though when it serves his purposes, his lawyers argue the VP office is a legislative office). When he was Wyoming’s lone congressman, he authored a book about unmitigated legislative power. As it happens, the most damning sort of power is minority tyranny, and so it is that Cheney’s consumption of personal political power is wreaking havoc on the constitution and this country’s democracy.
Back to the Ford analogy. Cheney’s start came in the Nixon administration, and while there, Cheney became enraptured with the trappings of Dick’s imperial palace. Although Cheney’s personal lot rose dramatically under Ford, becoming chief of staff, he saw the trappings of power disappear. By many accounts, the Ford Presidency was one of the weakest in history. Dick experienced political impotence and didn’t like it. When his boss lost to Jimmy Carter, Dick vowed to mount his efforts against any force that would ever militate against the powers of the presidency. Once again, Cheney’s stock rose after the demise of a powerful president.
Clinton, like Nixon, came a hair’s breath away from being removed from power by the senate. Cheney would do everything in his personal power to make sure that Bush 43 was no Gerald Ford. So, messy imagery aside, Dick, was Bush’s Viagra. He was there to keep the man and the office erect and potent for as long as possible. Along came 911, which for Cheney was the tragedy of a lifetime. It would provide him cover for wish fulfillment and all virtually the executive branch resources at his disposal. In his coterie, Rumsfeld shared his Nixon/Bush experiences and his desire not to relive the humiliation of those years.
With Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, and Cheney being given all the president’s powers by an incurious slacker of a president, the neo-con strategy became a reality faster than any of them had ever actually thought possible. They simply never bothered to plan what would follow their assumption of power, and their commitment to turn much of it over to private business partners. Once in Iraq, they had no plans other than turning back attempts by congress or the courts to limit their power, and then turn things over to Halliburton and Blackwater. They are still trying to figure it out, but at this point, their objectives have been achieved, and they no longer really care.