Apr 1 2006

Dick Cheney at Valley Forge

Dick Cheney (cc photo: Remy Steinegger/WEF)

Dick Cheney realized the Founders were just kidding about the Bill of Rights. (cc photo: Remy Steinegger/WEF)

U.S. News & World Report’s cover story on Vice President Dick Cheney (1/23/06) began by observing that he “likes to stroll with his wife, Lynne, or fly-fish on quiet mornings with the four grandkids near his Wyoming home.” It didn’t get much harder-hitting than that.

Here’s U.S. News on Cheney’s youth:

It was a pleasant Ozzie and Harriet existence, with strong families, safe neighborhoods and self-reliant parents who kept close tabs on their kids. This is the way Cheney has always believed American life should be. . . . As a young man, he liked sports, enjoyed a few beers with his pals and wasn’t too interested in academics.

That he “enjoyed a few beers” is perhaps a euphemistic allusion to Cheney’s two drunk-driving busts in his early 20s.

The article uncritically accepted Cheney’s political philosophy, writing, “Cheney came to believe that the Founders were wise to invest strong powers in the executive, who can more easily lead the nation with a singular voice and act decisively in a crisis than is possible for the legislative branch.” Apparently the Founders didn’t realize how wise they were; they mistakenly thought they were limiting the power of the executive, imposing through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights precisely the kind of “restrictions on what the commander in chief could do” that U.S. News said Cheney despises.

George Washington

George Washington–Dick Cheney’s 18th century equivalent

The magazine returned at the end of the article to the image of the Founders, making an improbable comparison:

In times of trouble, Cheney turns to the example of George Washington, whose life he has studied in great detail. Washington was criticized for being aloof and imperial, as is Cheney. But the VP believes America’s first president had a knack for seeing beyond the crisis of the moment and for not getting thrown off course by “background noise.” It’s the same path that Richard Bruce Cheney is trying to walk at the dawn of the 21st century.

Is that the same George Washington who warned in his Farewell Address (9/26/1796) that “overgrown military establishments . . . are inauspicious to liberty,” and that the “usurpation” of the powers of one branch of government by another is “the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed”?

The article insisted that “projecting a positive image is the last thing that the rotund, bespectacled, balding VP cares about.” If that’s the case, then U.S. News wasted a great deal of high-quality brownnosing.