Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig, where this article originally appeared. His latest book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America(Twelve).
In the end, the shame of Vice President Dick Cheney was total: unmitigated by any notion of a graceful departure, let alone the slightest obligation of honest accounting. Although firmly ensconced, even in the popular imagination, as an example of evil incarnate–nearly a quarter of those polled in this week’s CNN poll rated him the worst vice president in US history, and 41 percent as “poor”–Cheney exudes the confidence of one fully convinced that he will get away with it all.
And why not? Nothing, not his suspect role in the Enron debacle, which foretold the economic meltdown, or his office’s fabrication of the false reasons for invading Iraq, has ever been seriously investigated, because of White House stonewalling. Nor will the new president, committed as he is to nonpartisanship, be likely to open up Cheney’s can of worms.
Cheney has even had a pass on torture, the “enhanced interrogation” policy that he initiated in his first months in office. “Was it torture? I don’t believe it was torture,” he told The Washington Times on Monday, a week after the release of a unanimous Senate report concluding that the policies Cheney initiated indeed were responsible for torture. In fact, the Senate committee concluded that the model for the Cheney-Bush interrogation policy was the torture practices of the Chinese communists during the Korean War. But it’s not torture when the US president does it, according to the legal judgments that Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, pushed through the administration.
Fortunately, Cheney’s view of the unquestioned unitary power of the presidency was scorned by Vice President-elect Joe Biden: “His notion of a unitary executive” Biden said, “meaning that, in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive I think is dead wrong.”