You remember the first time President Bush addressed Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In addition to Congress, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of State and Prime Minister Tony Blair were all there. Seems the only person absent was Vice President Dick Cheney. I remember one of the network TV announcers explaining that Dick Cheney was someplace “safe.”
I scratched my head a little, wondering if that meant that the rest of those really important folks were someplace unsafe.
They didn’t really expect us to believe that there was the remotest possibility that a bomber might blow up the Capitol building with every last bit of non-Cheney U.S. leadership packed tightly together inside.
And I chuckled a little — all right a lot — thinking our government could still function if we lost all those constitutionally mandated big shots so long as Dick Cheney survived!
But when Dick Cheney appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation this weekend, it became clear. See, he wouldn’t have had to rule the world alone if Tony Blair, George Bush, Sandra Day O’Connor and Dennis Hastert had perished with Colin Powell that night.
Because Dick Cheney’s preferred wing man and mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh was safe, too.
So eight years later when the former vice president first started ranting, I remember thinking, “Why doesn’t that war criminal just keep his mouth shut?”
Honest! That was my exact thought.
Yeah, I read the March 19, 2009, Time magazine editorial speculating that Dick Cheney can’t hold his tongue because he’s afraid that Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Truth Commission might decide he’s just the sort of war criminal that I and many others believe him to be. And that he — Cheney — therefore decided that “the best defense of his record is to launch new attacks.”
And now history’s most powerful and arguably most despotic vice president has darted out of his nest to spit venom once again. This time his target is a decorated American soldier — the recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Soldier’s Medal, Legion of Merit and several other decorations — none other than former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
For a few minutes it looked like Vice President Cheney was on TV to defend water boarding. But he just had to keep going. He couldn’t shut up. Then Cheney made the seemingly peculiar remark that he’d take Rush Limbaugh as his ally in the Republican Party over Colin Powell. I say seemingly peculiar because when you think about it, it actually makes sense. Of course he’d rather have Rush; they have so much more in common.
Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh both flunked out of college. Now, granted the former vice president tanked at a far more prestigious school — Yale. Poor Rush only failed at Southeast Missouri State University. Imagine how much better Dick Cheney feels with Rush by his side than he would hanging around Colin Powell. Powell graduated with honors from every course of study he had, even though he was also doing ROTC or enrolled in the military at the time.
And there’s another comfort level Cheney shares with Limbaugh over Powell. The vice president and the radio hack both dodged the draft. Imagine exhausting all your educational deferments, including the ones you lost because you flunked out, and then seeking hardship deferments until you outlived the age limit only to spend your graying years in the shadow of a man who served two tours in Vietnam and one in Korea.
Cheney also challenged Powell’s “loyalty.” Powell — who saved his buddies’ lives when their helicopter got shot down — even though he was injured and the copter was on fire. The only butt Dick Cheney ever seems to have saved was his own when he was arrested twice as a young man. And now Cheney is reluctant to publicly share his ideology with or live up to the reputation of a true Republican: Colin Powell.
Choosing Limbaugh over Powell was the right choice for Dick Cheney and it was a tribute to Colin Powell. If Colin Powell decides to rebuild the Republican Party, the Republicans will be well served and lucky to have him.
Of course an honorable party might surrender Dick Cheney to Sen. Leahy’s truth commission.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.