George W. Bush apparently really believes in the “alternate realities” that he presented to our nation and the world over and over again during his Presidency. For example, he apparently really thought that: he was a uniter, not a divider; Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (until it was absolutely proven otherwise); cutting taxes for the rich would boost the economy; as President, he had all of those powers that Dick Cheney, Richard Addington, and John Yoo pretended to find for him in the Constitution; abolishing Social Security would benefit everyone whose social security was thereby abolished as well as the country as a whole; as President he had the authority under the Constitution to say “I’ll follow this Act of Congress but not that one, at my own discretion;” he could, on his own authority, abrogate ratified treaties if his White House Legal Counsel thought they were “quaint;” Saddam really did buy “yellow cake” in Niger.
While George Bush really is an undereducated, ignorant, and dumb, person, he, in his alternate reality certainly never thought of himself in that light. No, he was not a secret voracious reader, as “Turdblossom,” otherwise known as Karl Rove, was so fond of telling us. There were never any references to such readings except on the occasions that such were written into speeches for him. But he probably thought that he was, given that Rove told the world he that was. What a nice fit for Bush’s alternate reality.
Dick Cheney is cut from an entirely different cloth. He is very knowledgeable, very smart, and knows exactly what he is doing every minute. He had a very clear agenda when he was in office: to run both the presidency and the President to the extent that he could. He was very clear in his own mind, and even on occasion in public by indirection that his ultimate objective was to establish an authoritarian government in the United States., something he called “The Unitary Presidency.” Most not otherwise prejudiced observers, under the brief definition (of mine) that follows, would call it “fascism:”
“Fascism is a politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; and total corporate determination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”
Dick Cheney does not make off-hand remarks. Dick Cheney knows the truth from falsehood. Dick Cheney does not live in an alternate reality. Dick Cheney does try very hard to conceal the reality that he lives in. That is why, during his vice presidency, he made very few public appearances where one or more members of the media could question him. However, he did make such an appearance on a Sunday back in March on CNN.
In that interview he uttered several palpable falsehoods. First he made the claim that Iraq was a “state sponsor of terrorism,” by implication related to 9/11. There was absolutely no evidence to substantiate this claim. Bill Safire among others did like to cite a supposed meeting between a supposed al-Qaida operative with a supposed representative of the Hussein regime. The meeting supposedly took place in Prague, Czech Republic. There is no firm proof that such a meeting ever took place. But if it did, given the prior relationship between Hussein and bin Laden, the message delivered most likely to have been delivered by the Iraqi to the Saudi was one that could be summarized in two words: “F__k off!” It is a fact Saddam went out of his way to avoid associating with terrorists such as Osama bin Laden (who happened to hate Saddam as a secularist) if for no other reason than not to give the U.S. an excuse to attack him.
In that interview, Cheney stated that the Democrats are responsible for the current economic crisis and that his administration and the Republican-led Congress that controlled policy and monetary blank checks through 2006 had no responsibility for any of the mess, even though no one but the Republican Scream Machine holds to that view. Since Cheney, unlike Bush, clearly does not live in an alternate reality, he knows the truth. He just chose not to state it.
Not a falsehood, but a totally unsupportable position stated with total conviction, Cheney stated that President Obama’s policy of closing Guantanamo would make the U.S. “unsafe,” when only a handful of the persons held there are known terrorists or potential terrorists, when it was Bush/Cheney who ignored (or not, because they already knew that something was up and were determined NOT to stop it) that clear warning of an impending bin Laden-led attack on the US they received from the CIA on August 5, 2001. At the same time, it is now widely acknowledged that the Iraq War that Cheney largely ginned up has become, over the years, a major recruiting and training ground for potential terrorists. (I was pleased to note that after I originally penned these lines, the President too used this line of attack on Cheney.)
So why did he offer these falsehoods and misrepresentations? To score current political points? To indicate that he is now, post-position-of-power, falling into his political dotage and succumbing to the George W. Bush alternate reality disease? Certainly not. What Dick Cheney did was to make it very clear that his battle to establish an essentially fascist state in our country for the benefit of the primary power elements that he represents — the extractive industries, the military/industrial complex, the prison/industrial complex, the agribusiness sector, and certain elements of the other major economic sectors — is far from over. If the Cheney Wing of the Republican Party, now lead by Rush Limbaugh and his Republican Scream Machine clones, is ever to make it back to power, the first essential endeavour for them is to establish a mythology on which they can run. For they cannot possibly run on reality and hope to come close to winning.
The German Right in the 1920s did it with the “Stab in the Back” claim for the German loss of the World War I. Never mind that by 1918 Germany had been thoroughly bled of men, material, and money, that the U.S. with its relatively limitless supply of men and materiel was fully engaged on the British/French side, and that following the failure of the 1918 Summer Offensive under Hindenburg and Ludendorff, even the Kaiser was ready to quit. No. It was the “Socialists” and the “Communists” who “stabbed the German nation in the back.” They (in the Limbaugh/Coulter sense) did it. So “we,” the patriotic Germans, have to get them. For it is all their fault.
And here, now, Cheney is marching down the same track. He has the full collaboration of O’RHannibaugh and their clones, the Republican leadership in the Congress and outside of it (Gingrich) who see nowhere else to go, and their echo chambers, such as NewsMax (the voice of the American Conservative (sic) Union), the Fox “News” Channel, and the Heritage Foundation. Yes, the Rovian Privatized Ministry of Propaganda is very much in play. With them all, Cheney is laying the groundwork for their hoped-for GOP comeback. But this time it would be with a vengeance, both figurative and literal. It’s “The Liberals,” those traitors who, so Limbaugh and Coulter tell us, are responsible for everything that is wrong with the U.S., and “we” have to get “them,” “squash them like cockroaches,” so the self-parodying Mark Le-vin tells us.
One big difference now, as compared with the Clinton years, is that the Obama White House hits back. So much and with so much effectiveness, that Rove, et al feel impelled to go back after them, especially the sharp-tongued Vice-President. He in fact has been so effective that the mouthpiece NewsMax has to spread rumors of “White dis-satisfaction with the Vice-President” that have absolutely no basis in fact.
Stay tuned. Indeed we all better stay tuned, because Limbaugh out loud and Cheney to himself and privately to his friends are serious when they say that they want Obama to fail. For that failure, combined with the mythology they are quickly developing, would very easily lead them back to power. And were that to happen, the even GW Bush Presidency, moving down the road to fascism but not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, could become something that we would look back upon with longing.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; a regular contributor to Thomas Paine’s Corner; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.