The Nation

President Cheney -- Officially

Presuming that he could be distracted by a colonoscopy, George Bush on Saturday arranged to briefly transfer the authority of the presidency to Dick Cheney.

Surely, Cheney, who has not exactly been without presidential authority for the past six-and-a-half years enjoyed the irony.

But not everyone was thrilled by the prospect.

Air America's Rachel Maddow called me, in my capacity as Cheney's exceptionally unofficial biographer, to speculate on what draconian consequences might await America.

Noting the Vice President's enthusiasm for starting unnecessary wars in the Persian Gulf region, I suggested that, "The Iranians are, I am certain, feeling every bit as uncomfortable about the prospect of what will be happening Saturday as President Bush."

But a rudimentary knowledge of Cheney's modus operandi forced me to dismiss the war talk -- at least for the day.

"Cheney doesn't actually like to take official responsibility for the wars he starts," I explained. "He prefers the Geppetto role to Bush's Pinocchio."

So what, Rachel pressed, will the President in everything but name do on the day when he is President in name?

We settled on the notion that Cheney might pardon himself for his role in, well, you name it -- repeatedly and unapologetically lying to Congress and the American people about WMDs and bin Laden-Saddam connections, promoting torture, plotting to use the powers of the executive branch to punish political critics like former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

But presidents can't pardon themselves. Even Cheney's former bosses, Dick Nixon and Gerald Ford, had to shuffle their positions before Nixon enjoyed his absolution.

No problem. Cheney, who it should be remembered imagines himself as neither a member of the executive or legislative branches of a federal government that inconveniently for him lacks an formally designated monarch branch, would not be pardoning himself as president. He would, as President for a day, pardon the Vice President.

Diabolical? Yes. But not beyond the scheming of a man who in order to avoid scrutiny by the National Archives determined that the founders failed to create enough branches of government. And certainly not beyond the anti-Constitutional recklessness of an administration that determined this week that the system of checks and balances no longer applies to it -- via an announcement that the "Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege."

President Cheney? Scary, to be sure. But, for those of us who have been paying attention, not much scarier than the interregnum that began in 2001 and, failing the increasingly appealing prospect of impeachment, will continue for another 18 months of days when, depending on the condition of Bush's colon, Dick Cheney will run the country as formally or informally as circumstances demand.


John Nichols's book The Rise and Rise of Richard B. Cheney: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Most Powerful Vice President in American History (The New Press) is available nationwide at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com. Publisher's Weekly describes it as "a Fahrenheit 9/11 for Cheney" and Esquire magazine says it "reveals the inner Cheney." The London Review of Books says The Rise and Rise of Richard B. Cheney "makes a persuasive case…that the vice-presidency is the real locus of power in the current administration: Cheney runs the show."

Coming up on Meet the Press

Friday night, one of my colleagues alerted me to the fact that I had confused McConnells. It's not the Bush "enabler" Senator (Mitch of Kentucky) who's going to be on NBC's Meet the Press this Sunday --but rather the McConnell who's the Director of National Intelligence. If there's any justice left on Sundays on our media, this McConnell will talk about how the recent National Intelligence Estimate indicates that Bush's war has generated new and deadly threats against the US.

So, this Sunday on Meet the Press, at a moment when the overwhelming majority of the country has turned against this bloody quagmire, has turned against a President who even many Bush loyalists fear is detached from reality (see the editorial in Richard Mellon Scaife's newspaper questioning Bush's "mental stability" ), Tim Russert chooses to give a platform to TWO not three, as I wrote earlier, of "the President's enablers" (to borrow Paul Krugman's term) - Stephen Hayes and David Brooks.

"...Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation's security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it" Krugman writes in today's New York Times. That's a good description of what Russert is enabling with this Sunday's program.

NBC Meet The Press


MIKE MCCONNELL Director of National Intelligence

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI) Foreign Relations Committee Intelligence Committee

DAVID BROOKS New York Times Columnist

STEPHEN HAYES Senior Writer, The Weekly Standard Author, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President"

BOB WOODWARD Assistant Managing Editor, Washington Post Author, "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III"

Exclusive! In his first television interview as Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell joins us live and in studio to discuss terrorism & the National Intelligence Estimate. What is the state of our intelligence gathering? Now that nearly six years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, how safe are we? Are we any closer to capturing Osama Bin Laden?

The debate over the Iraq war reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill with an all-night session and a Democratic proposal to withdraw U.S. troops. This Sunday we will be joined in studio by the first Senator to propose a specific withdrawal date, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Then, our Meet the Press roundtable shares insights and analysis on the Bush-Cheney administration and the Iraq war: David Brooks of the New York Times, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, and the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, who has just written a new book, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President."

Hillary Clinton Wears V-Neck Top! Details at 11.

Of all the silly, breathless, overthinky pieces about Hillary Clinton's appearance, I mean campaign, this labored bit of style-section psychobabble by Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan has to be the most inane. It seems that on Wednesday Senator Clinton was shown on C-Span giving a speech on the Senate floor about oh, whatever, and under her rose-colored jacket she wore a black top that's a millimeter lower than the ones she usually wears. OMIGOD! The Senator has breasts! Two of them! "The cleavage registered after only a quick glance," Givhan, um, reports. "No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable."

Cue mini-essay about the semiotic significance of various ballgowns worn by the Senator as First Lady, her subsequent move as Senator into a "desexualized uniform" of black pantsuits, and more gasping OMIGOD! about Wednesday's venture into something a bit less staid. "It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!" Tops like the one Clinton wore offer a "teasing display," they're "unnerving," a "provocation." Why? "To show cleavage requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever."

The Senator's blouse is like an unzipped fly? That's the sort of brutal vulgarity I'd expect from Don Imus and other misogynistic Hillary-haters. I don't have Givhan's mind-reading abilities, so I can't say whether Clinton felt ambivalent or noncomittal about her neckline or how that would reveal itself ("Um, Dianne, Barbara, do you think this blouse is too, um, you know?"). But I spent some moments in "scrunch-faced scrutiny" of the C-Span video (thoughtfully provided by the Post) and I just don't get what Givhan is so worked up about. Granted I'm using dialup and the picture is kind of blurry, but I don't even see anything I would call cleavage.

I see a good-looking energetic middle-aged woman in a stylish summery outfit such that thousands of professional women would be thrilled to wear to an important meeting -- say, an edit meeting at the Washington Post to discuss further ways of trivializing women in politics. Like, maybe the Post can follow up with an article about Senator Clinton's choice of bathing suits (OMIGOD ! Is that a bellybutton? Gross! ). Or perhaps a two-page pictorial spread: Hillary's fashion do's and don'ts. Only, make that don'ts and don'ts. As in, Don't wear pantsuits -- too desexualizing! Don't wear a rose-colored jacket and a v-neck top -- too sexy!

Message to women: You can't win. You can't win. You can't win.

DeLay's Not Dead

Tom DeLay is not dead. In Max Blumenthal's new video he appears at the College Republicans annual convention, offering an unconventional solution to America's illegal immigration problem: ban abortion.

"If you don't believe abortion doesn't affect you," DeLay told the youngsters, "I contend it affects you in immigration. If we had those 40 million children who were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today." He pauses awkwardly, before offering this gem: "Think about it."

Our own David Corn also ran into DeLay this week. Corn asked DeLay what he was up to. Trying to be the "Democrats worst nightmare," he answered. Didn't DeLay already have that gig?

He also said he wanted his old nemesis Newt Gingrich to run for president. That's just the boost Newt needs.

Sweet Ideas

Behind each sweet victory, there is usually a sweet idea.

So it is heartening to see that The Roosevelt Institution, the nation's first student think tank, has been channeling its focus on just that: crafting ideas to improve the world.

"One year ago, representatives of progressive college students across America came together at the Roosevelt Policy Expo in DC and at the FDR Home in Hyde Park, NY, to discuss the most pressing issues facing our generation," says the description on the organizations web site. "After setting ourselves three challenges, we returned back to our college and university campuses and performed a year's worth of public policy research … As the year came to a close, we selected the best 25 ideas that we wanted to bring to the public policy discussion."

Last Friday, at the Institution's Policy Expo, the fruits of these efforts were presented in the form of published reports, which include 25 ideas each on three pressing issues: access to higher education, working families in America, and the energy crises.

"The idea was to try and connect students to the policy making process," said Nathaniel Loewentheil the incoming executive director of the Roosevelt Institute. "According to Loewentheil, the idea behind the Policy Expo was to have the students serve as the panelists, while it was the lawmakers who made up much of the audience. "Rather than have students listen to adults on panels, we wanted it the other way around. It was a big success," he said. The Roosevelt Institution plans to do the same project each year, with different issues.

The ideas vary in size and scope. Some entail modest and simple reforms such as Jay Cole's idea that literature about the college application process be given to anyone who applies for a driver's license. Others are quite bold such as Stephen Durham's proposal for free, universal higher education to all Americans using the 1944 GI Bill as a model.

But most importantly, they all have the potential to spark much-needed discussions over these important policy matters, and the project succeeds in giving young people -- and their fresh ideas -- a chance to be heard.

This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. he can be reached at www.michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com. Please send us your own ideas for "sweet victories" by emailing to nationvictories@gmail.com.

Powell: Engage Hamas

The Bush Administration, in advance of a much-hyped Middle East conference in September, continues to push a "West Bank first" strategy in the occupied territories that confines Gaza to a Hamas-led wasteland.

That plan now has at least one high-profile American critic: Colin Powell.

"I don't think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking to account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community," Powell said today.

That point, so often missed by American and Israeli policymakers, should be self-evident. But Powell went further, describing how US policy actually empowered Hamas. "They won an election that we insisted upon having," Powell said. "And so, as unpleasant a group they may be and as distasteful as I find some of their positions, I think through some means, the Middle East Quartet… or through some means Hamas has to be engaged."

This is what democracy looks like...

Community, Conference Calls & Our Postal Rate Campaign

Yesterday afternoon I had one of the most moving experiences in my time here as editor. It was on a conference call with readers and friends committed to helping The Nation deal with the "Great Postal Crisis of 2007."

Let me backtrack for a moment. In these last weeks, the response from thousands of people to our plea for help as we face this crisis has been nothing short of astonishing. When we turned to our loyal readers and friends, we expected your contributions to help just a little to pay the $500,000 increase in our annual postage bill. (NOTE: This blog was updated May 22, 2008, to correct an error. I originally referred to our $500,000 postage bill.) But your overwhelming response has humbled us--and it has also emboldened us in our fight to overcome this corporate-driven, Time-Warner drafted, unfair and anti-democratic rate increase.

On Wednesday afternoon, Teresa Stack, John Nichols, Bob McChesney and I "met" with 100 of you on an hour-long conference call--to discuss our thoughts and plans, hear your questions and ideas, and thank you in person. There was a powerful sense of community--of allies and supporters who understand how important it is to invest in a strong, free, independent and truth-telling media. The questions that poured in were savvy, on-target and revealed how informed all of you are about the threat facing small, independent media. Your calls flooded in from across the country--from Illinois and Florida, to California and North Carolina. (There was even a call from Nova Scotia.) A caller from Northern Georgia identified herself as "a member of an oppressed minority" --a liberal in one of the reddest of red states. "Keep sending us courage," she implored. "Tell us what to do. Not everyone wants more Time-Warner!"

McChesney outlined our legislative strategy--explaining that we hope by the Fall to have draft legislation around which we will mobilize a massive grassroots campaign. He spoke of his cautious optimism--"we can win this" with the right allies in Congress and organized people overtaking organized money. But, we also leveled with our friends and readers on the call, explaining that we will undoubtedly face a difficult transition in this next year or more--a period when it will be crucial to have the resources and stability to mount an effective challenge to overturn these rates and rules and to counter the power of high priced lobbyists and corporate power.

Teresa spoke of the coalition she has worked to put together--a transpartisan group of about two dozen political and cultural magazines, of the left and the right, religious and secular, (National Review, American Conservative, Weekly Standard, Mother Jones, Commonweal, The Progressive, Christian Science Monitor, American Prospect). She laid out how these small publications are working together to mobilize our combined readership to petition congress and the postal authorities, to get mainstream media coverage on this issue, and to work with the public interest group Free Press for legislative relief for this class of magazines.

John Nichols spoke of the importance of a vibrant print press--as one way to maintain connectedness in atomized times. One caller told us that his copy of The Nation never ever goes in the trash; instead, it is passed around from friend to friend, family member to member, neighbor to neighbor.

We spoke of the investment in quality journalism the Nation makes, week in and week out--Jeremy Scahill's investigative reporting on "Blackwater" and the blight of 21st century contractor/ mercenaries; we spoke of the importance of Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian's eight month investigation on "The Other War" Military Veterans Speak on the Record About Attacks on Iraqi Civilians"; and the impact of Joshua Kors' cover story about how the Army is discharging maimed vets with misdiagnosed "personality disorders" in order to deny them disability compensation. (On July 25th, the House Veteran Affairs Committee is holding hearings --sparked by Kors' Nation investigation. And the musician Dave Matthews has launched a massive petition drive inspired by Kor's reporting.) One caller concurred with McChesney's point that most of the original material online and most of the articles that bloggers are blogging about come from ink on paper.

At times, the call had the feel of a spirited seminar on postal policy and how it formed the underpinning of a vibrant democracy. McChesney, for example, spoke of how this radical restructuring that small publications are now facing could end up silencing the rich and diverse voices those Founding Fathers intended to foster when they created the national postal system. The names of Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson came up throughout the call! And at moments, McChesney and Nichols, co-founders of the invaluable Free Press media reform group, were so eloquent and passionate in their comments about the importance of fighting and overturning this rate increase that I will forever think of them as the Tom Paine and Paul Revere of the media & democracy movement.

This call was a first for us. We were unsure how the technology would work. We worried about all sorts of glitches--that we'd lose your calls or miss your comments. We wanted to make sure that we answered your questions, addressed your concerns and communicated the urgency and political and democratic significance of this issue. Miraculously, all went smoothly.

Yesterday, we took an important first step in building the community to fight this unfair increase. It was also a moving experience for all of us--a chance to step away from the hard slog of putting out a weekly magazine and listen to readers and friends express their dedication and affection for the magazine. It didn't hurt that all of the concerns and suggestions and support were so smart, helpful and welcome! We asked for feedback at the end of the call--and meant it. We've already received many emails. (Click here if you'd like to add your support and be involved in future calls.)

(Let me give you a snippet from one of the emails that poured in after our call--this one from Miriam Thompson of North Carolina: "Thank you for your excellent presentations on the corporate context of the struggle and thank you for taking my call. I have been a Nation reader forever....love all of your work...In the meantime, I will spread the word about the call and connect it to the efforts of big corporations in North Carolina (including Time Warner) to restrict broadband access by independent media stations. Of course these corporations have done nothing to increase access to rural areas. But we will help connect the dots: cable and postal. And I will contact my Congress member and make sure he is one of the FIRST sponsors of the legislation you are pursuing.)

I'm a great believer in what the great Chicago radio host and small "d" democrat Studs Terkel likes to say: Action engenders hope. In that spirit, the call yesterday was the first act in building a pro-democracy movement to ensure that free and independent media not only survives but thrives at a moment when it is needed more than ever.

Marbury vs. Jordan

New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury is in the midst of a 37-city tour to promote his Starbury line of shoes and clothing for Steve and Barry's. The sneakers cost just $14.95 a pair and are designed as an alternative to far higher priced kicks endorsed by celebrity athletes and made by Nike, Reebok, Adidas and other companies. (The concept is similar to recent fashion lines launched by actress Sarah Jessica Parker and renowned designer Isaac Mizrahi, who offer cheap-chic clothing for about $20.)

Marbury has said his venture is driven by memories of growing up in Brooklyn and not being able to afford the latest shoes. He says his motivation was also rooted in discussions he had with Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas about the civil rights movement and Marbury's eventual legacy.

Hoping that his discount sneaker idea will become popular, Marbury has gone as far to prove his point as playing in his own sneakers in all his NBA games last season. The idea of $15 quality shoes has been an idea of Marbury's for a long time according to the New York Knicks point guard. In fact he was the first one to approach Steve & Barry's with the idea. The company had previously been popular for university and college retailing. The shoes are manufactured in China but there is a third party involved to prevent sweatshop conditions.

Making huge profits off sweatshop labor has never been a concern for most of basketball's stars, especially its largest global icon, the now-retired Michael Jordan, who has rebuffed repeated efforts by activists to take a stand against unfair working conditions among the workers producing his branded products.

Most basketball players steer clear of criticizing Jordan but Marbury is clearly trailblazing a unique path and he blasted the mega-superstar in a blog he's keeping while on his current promotional tour:

"After that we bounced through Charlotte. We stopped off at one of my favorite places to eat, Cracker Barrel. We met a nice lady named Lisa who worked there and told us the story of how she had promised her son she would buy him a pair of $175 Jordans even though she didn't want to. But he never had any brand name shoes. So she did it. She wrote Michael Jordan a letter saying it was unfair that a lot of children wouldn't be able to afford them and they shouldn't need Jordans to feel accepted.

She said they sent her a b.s. email back but that was it. I want Michael Jordan to get down with the movement and come out with a Star Jordan sneaker for the people. Let's see what happens."

Don't hold your breath there but click here if you want to buy a pair of Starbury's.

And check this video of Marbury introducing the shoe to his intended market.

Bush to Children: Drop Dead

On so-called philosophical grounds, President Bush opposes health care for children. A bipartisan group of Senators want to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $60 billion over five years, covering 3.3 million additional low-income children. Bush will only except half of that, saying "when you expand eligibility...you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."

So the President is for children's healthcare--as long as we don't spend too much on it and private insurance companies reap the benefits. Anything less will prompt a White House veto.

That came as news to conservative Republicans Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, cosponsors of the Senate's bill. "It's disappointing, even a little unbelievable, to hear talk about Administration officials wanting a veto of a legislative proposal they haven't even seen yet," Hatch and Grassley said on July 12th. In a follow-up release yesterday, they called the President's proposal a "non-starter."

[UPDATE: The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-4 today to reauthorize and expand SCHIP, in defiance of Bush.]

This is what Bush's presidency has been reduced to: vetoing legislation to help poor children.

SCHIP is not the only successful government program Bush opposes. "I believe government cannot provide affordable health care," he said yesterday. I guess he forgot Medicare and Medicaid.