"I would like to believe he [Cheney] is sick rather than just mean and evil." — U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Dick Cheney first emerged in the Bush campaign in 2000 when he was responsible for vetting potential running mates for George W. Bush. Suddenly the vetting stopped, and he became the running mate himself. It isn't clear if the process was all for show or if George Bush Sr. decided that Dick would be the best babysitter for his son. In any case, he was the perfect choice to carry out the Bushies' schemes.
Cheney is the Bush administration's bad cop. Bush pretends to be the compassionate conservative, while Dick boldly states that we are all going to die if we don't give him our votes.
Dick was packing heat from the early days of the Bush campaign for president. Now he is packing heat literally.
Cheney shot — accidentally we are told — Texas lawyer Harry Whittington during a recent hunting trip. We didn't get the news from the vice president's office or the White House. Katharine Armstrong, the well-connected hunting party hostess, spoke to Karl Rove and got her marching orders to contact her local newspaper the day after the shooting.
The White House immediately went into attack mode when they were unable to control the story. The only thing that stopped the well-oiled smear campaign against Whittington was news that a shotgun pellet had lodged in his heart. Fear of his death changed the White House's tune and sent Cheney running to the warm embrace of FOX News.
Whittington remembered the rules of the game. Upon leaving the hospital, he said, "Accidents do and will happen," and expressed sympathy for Cheney. "My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," he said. Whittington knows better than the rest of us the consequences of crossing the Bush team.
On the same day that Cheney talked to FOX News, more photos of mistreatment, abuse and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison were made public. The photos were a reminder that Cheney and Co. are not just violent with quails. They were also a lesson about why the Muslim world is angry with the West.
All of Cheney's chickens came home to roost simultaneously. While Abu Ghraib once again reared its awful head, an independent United Nations Commission on Human Rights urged the Bush administration to close the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and either put the prisoners on trial or let them go.
But the Bush administration is unprecedented in its determination to hold on to power and fulfill its agenda. They won't stand by and watch as one of their own is taken out. If they fear impeachment or indictment, they will do anything, including go to war, to distract the public and shut up what passes for an opposition.
There are great political benefits in waging war. The corporate media will fall into line. When the bombs begin falling in Iran, the same comedians who joke about Cheney and guns will dutifully stand at attention. The wimpy Democrats will immediately back the president.
Where were the Democrats when this story broke? The vice president shot someone, said nothing to the public, deputized a private citizen to tell the story and avoided law enforcement empowered to investigate. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' lady-in-waiting, had this hard-hitting analysis: "A tendency of this administration from the top all the way to the bottom is to withhold information, to resist legitimate requests for information, to refuse to be forthcoming."
Even when the Republicans do themselves in, the Democrats won't take advantage.
Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo are worse crimes than Cheney channeling Elmer Fudd. They are the reason other countries hate and or fear the United States, and they are what makes Cheney truly awful.
They will be forgotten until someone forces us to pay attention. By that time, the shootout at the ranch will have been forgotten, too.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly at www.blackcommentator.com.