Sunday, June 27, 2004
There's been speculation that the Veep's surliness, like his current neoconservative extremism, is a byproduct of his bypass surgery, which has been known to induce dramatic personality changes in the patient (turning him or her into a "pump head," to use the vernacular.)
Personally, I doubt it - the heart doesn't seem to have ever been a particularly important organ in Cheney's psychology. (A man who produces an offspring nine months and one day after learning that only fathers will qualify for a student draft deferment can't exactly be called someone who is ruled by his emotions.)
No, I think what we have here is a byproduct of the enormous stress and growing panic that appears to be engulfing the neocons (and their maximum leader) as everything they've touched over the past two years turns to absolute shit. Cheney, the rock of the Rockies, the ultimate unflappable man, may finally be cracking.
What set the veep off, apparently, was Leahy's attempt to make small talk - or, as Big Dick put it, "act like, you know, everything's peaches and cream" - at a ceremonial Senate photo shoot. Cheney wasn't having any of it, not when the Democrats are doing such a aggressive (and effective) job of trashing his beloved former employer, Halliburton. Apparently, publicizing the Pentagon's own findings about the exceptionally close interest taken in Halliburton contracts by Cheney's staff (including his chief of staff) is considered hitting below the belt.
It's ridiculous, really, for one of the reigning dons of the conservative mafia - which practically invented the modern art of negative campaigning back in the late 1970s (the heyday of the National Conservative Political Action Committee) to suddenly develop such a thin skin about the practice. It's a sensitivity that certainly wasn't on display when the Christian right's golden boy, Raph Reed, labeled Max Cleland an ex officio member of Al Qaeda, or when the RNC morphed Paul Wellstone's funeral into a Nuremberg rally, or when Bill Frist accused Richard Clarke of perjury on the Senate floor - without having read one word of Clarke's testimony . . . .
The problem, as is so often the case, is the classic bully's syndrome: They can dish it out, but they can't take it. To me, that's a valuable strategic weakness in an opponent. Cheney, in a completely spontaneous way, has just shown the Democrats where his sore spot is. So instead of making a big deal about Big Dick's use of the f word, the Dems should simply crank up the Halliburton-bashing. Instead of Halliburton Week, make it Halliburton Month.
After all, getting even is always better than getting mad.