Sunday, July 1, 2007

The man who is pulling George Bush's strings

The Washington Post has published a major four-part investigation and assessment of Dick Cheney. Entitled "The Angler" it collates a fascinating picture of the US Vice-President.

The opening of the first part of this Barton Gellman and Jo Becker series, is stunning. It reveals that Cheney basically got Bush to sign the order for foreign terrorist suspects to be tried by military tribunal without the Secretary of State (Colin Powell) or the National Security Adviser (Condeleeza Rice) knowing anything about it. That is significant, given that several years later the first case at such a tribunal collapsed. Perhaps if more advisers had discussed the order before its approval, all those years of agony would have been avoided.

The series clearly illustrates that Cheney's role is unlike that of any previous Vice-President. Rather than agreeing to keep to a limited range of portfolios...

Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to "every table and every meeting," making his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in," Joshua B Bolten (White House Chief of Staff) said.

Cheney has used that mandate with singular force of will. Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence, at Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels where his predecessors were seldom seen. He found pressure points and changed the course of events by "reaching down," a phrase that recurs often in interviews with current and former aides.

It is particularly illuminating to read Cheney's role in the changing of the definition of torture by the Bush administration. This change appears to have its origins in the so-called "Torture memo", which was a documented opinion from the US Justice Department which narrowed the definition of "torture" to mean only suffering "equivalent in intensity" to the pain of "organ failure ..... or even death."

Reading this series one has to ask, again, "Who is actually the President of the United States?" It is clear that Cheney has accumulated power to an extent where it appears that Bush follows his instructions like a lamb following its mother ewe. I know none of this is new, but the Washington Post is remarkable in accumulating a vast array of evidence for this view.

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