A government unto himself

Dick Cheney was starting his second term in Congress when I arrived in Washington in 1981 as Press Secretary to then-Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois.

But Cheney was already on a fast-track to power, moving into chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee after just two years on the Hill. He may have been a newbie in Congress but Cheney was an insider, a former White House chief of Staff with the proverbial friends in high places.

By 1983, I was a Congressional chief of staff who also worked with the National Republican Congressional Committee, so I met with Cheney and other Republican leaders in strategy sessions for the 1984 election. My notes from a first meeting with Cheney listed three words: Pompous, arrogant, and insufferable.

Cheney was then, and still is, an asshole but that wasn’t an impediment on Capitol Hill. It was an asset (pun intended) and one that served Cheney well. He moved up through the ranks and served as House Minority Whip in his sixth and final term in Congress.

A “whip” serves as second in command to the party’s House leader. The title comes from an expectation that the person holding the office must, when needed, “whip” others into line to back the party’s legislative initiatives. Cheney knew how to hardball and was considered by many a master of intimidation.

Years later, another Congressional bully – Republican whip Tom DeLay – would brag that he learned the techniques of intimidation from Dick Cheney.

Cheney kept a copy of the book, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” on his desk and waved it around when threatening people. Attila, he said, was too soft. In campaign strategy sessions he would say that “rules are for losers. We’re here to win and we will do whatever it takes to win.”

But winning was hard for a minority party in Congress and Cheney chafed as second-fiddle to the Democratic majority. The Republican day would come, he said, and when it did “payback will be a bitch.” When President George H.W. Bush offered Cheney the Secretary of Defense job in 1989 he jumped at the chance.

Today, as the most powerful Vice President in American history, Cheney has honed his arrogance and moved into his own world of invincible power, a vacuum where he feels unfettered by the rule of law and untouchable by any of the three branches of government.

He is, he believes, a power unto himself, a second-in-command who answers to no one, not even his theoretical boss – the President of the United States.

And, for the moment, he is what he believes he is – answerable to no one but himself. Until someone finds a way to stop him, he can, and will, do whatever he wants for the remaining time that George W. Bush has in office.

Someone should stop Dick Cheney but the sad truth is no one will. He exists in a netherworld of Constitutional ambiguity, defined only by his enormous ego and insufferable arrogance.

He is a creation of everything that is wrong with the American political system. He is also a master of the system that he has managed to subvert and turn into his own, untouchable, fiefdom.


  1. mary cali


    Cheney has had four heart attacks, has blockages in his arteries and has a pace maker. Is he physically and, more importantly, mentally fit for the co/president role he has assumed? People with that much cardiovascular disease often have cognitive impairment. Why should he be any different?

  2. vietnam vet

    Evil in the White House

    Doug, as always, your article is right on time, but I disagree with you, if I read you right, that no one will stop Cheney. I Prophesy That V.P. Cheney will be stopped before the end of this year. I don’t know how, but he will be stopped. Evil always end up in tragedy.

  3. Steve Horn

    Interesting that Cheney would call Attila “soft” – at least Attila lead his armies from the front – straight into combat. Cheney seems to prefer to isolate himself in a bunker and allow others to do his bidding for him.

    I’ve been around many bullies in my life, the corporate world is rife with them, and have yet to be impressed. Typically they threaten simply because they cannot think well enough to figure out ways to work with, rather than dominate, other people. Bombast and bullshit substituting for intellect and information – big deal. The fact that Cheney can get ahead this way just indicates how weak many of our “leaders” really are.

    This whole administration has been pathetic, sadder still the lilly livered “liberals” we sent to congress to bring about change, who spouted words so sweet and brave during the election cycle but now seem to have had that courage evaporate like dew in the Gobi.

    And we the people are left wandering the wilderness – no light to guide us – no glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, no transient hint of milk and honey blowing on the wind – just the dank smell of congressional flatus fouling the still, night air.



  4. MomCat

    Cheney is utterly Machiavellian, the epitome of evil. He is a sociopath who cares not how he is perceived, only how he can use people and government to his own ends. IMPEACH CHENEY NOW!
    It took only two months to impeach Clinton — what’s the delay in impeaching Cheney? Get him out of the way before he delivers the death blow to our Constitution, thus killing our democracy.

  5. Sandra Price

    Just think how really neat it would be if our voters were educated enough to see the evil permeating in our government. Our schools and parents have never emphasized the need to understand our government.

    The best thing we could do would be to stress the civics classes in learning how we can get rid of a failed White House. It took the emotions of the religious right to move against Clinton for adultery. Where is this movement now that Bush and Cheney have raped the entire nation?

    The only way the voters would impeach Bush and Cheney is if they were found in bed together.

  6. darknyt4

    There is a story ithat goes around Washington: The three things that will kill a political career are dead hookers, live little boys, and farm animals. That was true until this adminstration, where people get promoted for ROYALLY FUCKING UP. Michael Brown screwed FEMA and was made a consultant to fix FEMA’s problems. Alberto Gonzalez wrote the memo advocating torture and calling the Geneva Convention “quaint” and this yutz is promoted to be the highest law enforcement official in the land?

    Sandra wrote “Where is this movement now that Bush and Cheney have raped the entire nation?”

    That is a damn good question. Have we gotten so jaded that we actually are starting to believe the “Crap” the Adminstration would have us believe that the citizens of the United States are powerless to stop our government from becoming a totalitarian regime?

    As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you
    can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.-Molly Ivins

  7. Carl Nemo

    Fear not…! Cheney is not immortal. His biological clock is now in a countdown function. I thank nature often for the phenomeonon of death through either natural or violent causes. Immortality is surely a frightful concept, except for the mega-wealthy I’m sure. But alas it is not theirs to have because everything and everyone shall die including the Cosmos! Death, as birth, is very natural and represents the Yin and Yang, the ultimate resolution of everything. To bias this result in either direction represents the ultimate corruption of universal principles. It shall not happen!

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. Jenifer D.

    Good point Carl

    I’m keeping my eyes and ears on the news just waiting for VP to buy the dirt farm from his heart ailment. He’s a bloated lazy toad who’s been bullying the elected bodies for too long, he’ll get his in the hereafter. That seems to be the only real consolation I have.

  9. Helen Rainier

    What is really scary to me is just exactly how far on the dark side all of these neocons seem to be. They are like the objects that pass the event horizon of a black hole continually getting in deeper and deeper with no hope of escape. They seem to have no conscience whatsoever — I think I would kill myself if I was allied with them. I would have to seriously question what kind of person I had become.

  10. Sandra Price

    Carl, I remember reading many statements like yours coming from Germany when the people themselves were opposed to Hitler’s extermination of the German people who happen to be Jews. Universal principles did not stop the deaths of millions of innocent Jews.

    Only the people of any nation can stop the actions of their leaders. Our elected representatives have given Cheney and Bush carte blanch to become legal dictators. We need to discuss how we can stop the assault.