Teflon Dick: How Cheney Uses Media For Protection
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On January 29, 2001, just nine days after taking office, Dick Cheney created The National Energy Policy Development Group, commonly known as the Cheney Energy Task Force. The task force was charged with the critically important task of designing America's national energy policy. Although the group's efforts would directly impact the entire nation, the new Vice President refused to divulge the names of its members or their specific activities, claiming the Executive Branch's right to confidentiality.
To challenge Cheney's claims of privacy and acquire the names and activities of the task force members, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, but the courts denied their initial requests and subsequent appeals. On July 18, 2007, the Washington Post revealed the names of members of the task force, which included executives of major conglomerates Enron, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, the National Mining Association, and more.
Cheney's refusal to divulge the identities of the members of his task force was the earliest indication of the absolute power America's 46th Vice President presumed. His refusal demonstrated the covert nature of his Vice Presidency and his belief that transparency was not a requirement of the Executive Branch. The policies and practices predicated upon Cheney's presumption of confidentiality remained constant for the full eight years of his Vice Presidency. They ushered in the era of the Bush/Cheney Imperial Presidency that exercised sweeping authority, bypassed established law, and caused widespread concern amongst scholars and average citizens for the future of our democracy.
On August 27, 2004, future Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote the following criticism of Mr. Cheney's pursuit of privacy and power:
"Mr. Cheney's determination to keep his secrets probably reflects more than an effort to avoid bad publicity. It's also a matter of principle, based on the administration's deep belief that it has the right to act as it pleases, and that the public has no right to know what it's doing.
As Linda Greenhouse recently pointed out in The New York Times , the legal arguments the administration is making for the secrecy of the energy task force are "strikingly similar" to those it makes for its right to detain, without trial, anyone it deems an enemy combatant. In both cases, as Ms. Greenhouse puts it, the administration has put forward "a vision of presidential power . . . as far-reaching as any the court has seen."
From January of 2001 right through today, Dick Cheney has committed unconstrained, and as yet unprosecuted offenses, that include circumventing the Constitution, sanctioning unlawful torture, contributing to the outing of a CIA agent, concealing information from Congress, and lying the nation into war. The tragedy of Cheney's unrestrained lawlessness is further compounded by his unprecedented authority to preside over economic and foreign policies so calamitous that they drove this nation financially, militarily and morally into the ground. Despite his constant international and domestic catastrophes, for his first six years in office Cheney's crimes were supported by an ideological Republican legislative majority and a weak Democratic minority, both of whom succumbed to Bush and Cheney's Unitary Executive.
After the 2006 election, when Democrats took control of both Houses, Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to abide by her constitutional duty to investigate Bush and Cheney's crimes. Irrespective of public clamor for backbone and accountability, the Democratic majority rolled over for Bush and Cheney. They financed their plunder and allowed America to decay from within. Structural chasms in bridges, roadways, pipelines, and schools were matched by ideological chasms over religion, economics, politics and war. As Americans battled each other, Bush and Cheney bombed and tortured on, comforted by knowing there would be no repercussion. For a full eight years, they wreaked havoc on America and the world, and today, post administration, both men remain free.
Bush and Cheney understand that they're vulnerable to prosecution. Bush, for the most part, has stayed out of the limelight, though he's recently become more visible, perhaps inspired by Cheney's success at using the big tool - the media - for protection. Since the beginning of the Obama presidency, Cheney has used the media full on. He's commandeered its major outlets, newspapers, cable and network TV, and the most caustic outlet of all, talk radio, to attack the very sources he knows could bring him down - the President and Attorney General. Cheney's best defense is his mass media offense and he knows exactly how to use it.
Dick Cheney has used the complicit American media, his most powerful anti-prosecution tool, to near Machiavellian perfection. He understands implicitly that American media employs no ethical standards that would prevent it from promoting him despite the atrocities he has caused. Regardless of his catastrophic failures, the shameless complicit media freely provides Cheney the platform to attack the President and Attorney General and advance his standing as their fiercest political critic. Because of this granted visibility to pummel Obama and Holder, Cheney is more able to establish himself as a victim of partisanship should Obama and Holder try to charge him for his crimes. Through widely broadcast speeches, like the one below of Cheney bashing Obama on Afghanistan, the complicit media is helping to immunize Cheney - and it's doing so knowingly.
It's baiting for ratings and justice be damned!
Cheney's transparent media offensive places him squarely, frequently and loudly in the public eye attacking Obama and Holder, and setting the stage for an adversarial relationship from which he can claim that he's their target. He's banking on the theory of American exceptionalism to keep his contrived "adversaries" from taking him down. American exceptionalism implies that America as a nation is superior to the rest of the world. In lesser nations, political rivals are targeted and imprisoned. Exceptionalism presumes that superior America, with its highly evolved democracy, would never do the same. Exceptionalism presumes that political targeting only happens in undeveloped and undemocratic nations led by unsavory leaders; Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Museveni of Uganda, Nkrumah of Ghana, Putin of Russia, have all imprisoned their opponents. Cheney's calculus has determined that American exceptionalism would prevent America's leaders from publicly engaging in tactics they condemn - like imprisoning political opponents.
Last week, Cheney's Machiavellian strategy reached a whole new level when his daughter Liz raised his status from political adversary to political opponent by floating the prospect of candidate Cheney in 2012. Brilliant! Behold Dick's calculating progeny doing his bidding on Fox TV:
What better protection from legal worries than planting the notion of a presidential run, elevating Cheney from harsh critic to political rival? It's the epitome of legal immunity in exceptionalist USA. Of course, there's little probability that Cheney would actually run. His approval ratings are dismal and he battles for breath whenever he speaks. But this is media manipulation - not political reality. Truth rarely imposes itself on TV.
Then there's the blogosphere, and the Keep America Safe website, created by scions Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol to propagandize for Cheney. The Cheney cabal is in full media combat when it comes to protecting Dick Cheney.
Notice the front page attack on Attorney General Holder - though Cheney's attacked Holder for a while.
On August 30th on Fox News, Cheney characterized AG Holder's decision to conduct a review of CIA interrogations as 'politically motivated,' laying the groundwork for Cheney's future claim of partisan targeting should the AG investigate him. Recognizing that Cheney and his "BFF" Donald Rumsfeld are thought to have instigated and sanctioned the interrogations, there is strong indication that CIA investigations would lead the AG directly to Dick Cheney. Here's Cheney's politicization of Holder's decision, broadcast on Fox TV:
Could the Cheney media strategy be any more obvious than it is in this video?
The saddest and perhaps most despicable irony in this symbiotic relationship between Cheney and the all encompassing media is the manner in which the media permits itself to be the tool to thwart justice. I recognize that in this article I've reproduced the messages Dick Cheney wants to send. But I've done so in the context of revealing Cheney's manipulations. It's my sincere hope that all media stop providing Cheney the wherewithal to immunize himself from prosecution. But sadly that won't happen. American media thrives on the point-counterpoint model, and Cheney has fashioned his offense perfectly to fit it.
Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time between the entertainment industry, government organizations & community development projects, and educational programs.