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June 25, 2007

Then The Planes Hit The Buildings, Mr. Shadow President


Along with the ’spheric attention lately to Dick Cheney as the “fourth branch of government,” there seems to have also arisen a renewed interest in the Cheney-Bush relationship.

Last week, Digby summarized the (delayed) storm over the Cheney power grab, lamenting the fact that the MSM still hadn’t noticed.  She came back on Sunday, however, to highlight an in-depth WAPO piece detailing the Cheney (“just don’t call it that”) shadow presidency.

Although we’ve been excavating these visual dynamics for years, the recent candor and clearer vision is leading to more pictures being reviewed and still more shaking loose.

My fuel for the fire is a lesser known portrait of the pair, shot by the White House, immediately after Bush returned from Offutt Air Force Base following the 9/11 attacks.  It seems fairly obvious the hyperkinetic Bush is offering Cheney a rather grade-schoolish enactment of how these two planes approached the World Trade Center towers.  (Like Cheney didn’t know?)  And Cheney, in his typically stoic style, is doing what?  I’d call it an archetypal example of his playing along.

In any case, most of my observations are embedded with the photo.  What I thought you would also be interested in was how closely this shot mirrors a couple others in the damning WAPO piece.  Specifically, for example, take a look at the first photo featuring Cheney with Colin Powell.  The caption reads:

Vice President Cheney, standing behind the president’s desk during a July 2003 meeting, circumvented Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in 2001 on the military commissions order.

Having seen many examples of Cheney standing close to or behind the President’s desk, it’s hard not to read these images as someone with the instinct for, if not, an actual grip on the seat of power.

(image: Eric Draper/White House.  November 2001. caption: Upon returning to the White House from Offutt Air Force Base, President Bush and Vice President Cheney discuss the attacks on America while secure inside the operations center in the White House.)

  • Eric

    What always strikes me with Cheney photos is how little we see — or hear — from the Vice President. He’ll do interviews here and there, but just as in the post-lawyer shooting, we’ll never see a press conference. He rarely takes questions from non-friends (Limbaugh, Russert) and I don’t imagine the images of him are any less controlled.
    My other thought is how Cheney’s secrecy has been so clearly enabled by the press. There have been jokes about him being paranoid, secretive and power-mad for years; why hasn’t it been examined by the press? All of this is, ultimately a “F-off” to them, and anyone who thinks an informed populace is necessary for a working democracy.
    It has often been said that the Press’ only bias is for themselves. Clinton was roasted over the coals for lying in that “I did not have sex with that woman…” quote. Several reporters said that his crime was as much lying to them — I remember hearing one prominant reporter say she would never forgive him for causing a lie “to appear in (her) story.”
    But that has been all we’ve gotten from Cheney these years. It bears repeating, but who has the time? From last throes and liberator greetings, not to mantion any number of ridiculous threats, all have seen print. All have been refuted. And yet, the new comments see print too.
    And if you count sins of omission as well, how could the press corps have forgiven all the hidden stories, the denial of access, the mystery? Six and a half years of mystery and not one budding Nancy Drew at the WaPo or NYT wasn’t able to shake out the guests to his “energy task force” — let alone the content of those discussions. (Hilariously, exec priv. was used, successfully, to stop any attempts. Does that mean we get to see it now that he’s no longer an exec?) We know little to nothing about who he sees, what he does, and what the outcomes are. We can joke that he’s a shadow president — but please explain how a shadow government leader would act differently?
    I imagine all future summary of these years (treated with the mixture of shame and befuddlement we usually see in discussions of the Hoover presidency) will be informed by these records — much of which will ultimately come out, even if it takes several decades or longer. A Beaurocracy’s are hard to hide, even for Darth Cheney. But I sure hope the role of the press in letting Cheney take root — just as the press was as responsible for the Iraq war and the disaster that followed — is mentioned as well. I doubt it.
    Because if the Press has a bias for themselves, they also have a well-documented yet easily-ignored bias for amnesia.

  • margaret

    You nailed it again, BAG:
    The clue to what was to come was when, in his “search” for a Vice-Pres candidate for George W., he chose himself as the best candidate. Why didn’t anybody get exercised over that?

  • PTate in FR

    Great, great picture. By “great” I mean sinister and chilling.

  • silly con carne

    Don’t impeach, that’s what they want … tie up DC in impeachments so GLOBAL WARMING will not not be addressed via laws for many, many years.
    Criminal. (s).

  • Susan Murray

    Is bush dancing the hokey-pokey?

  • Asta

    It’s amazing that the Puppet’s strings are invisible to the naked eye.

  • tim

    In Haiku Form:
    Dark Central Figure
    Gravitas Like A Black Hole
    Firm Grip On Power
    Listens To Charades
    Did The Little Boy Get It
    Cliff Notes Mental Aid :)

  • Darryl Pearce

    This story is one I’ve obsessed on: “December 10, 2002 / Washington — Neighbors of Vice President Dick Cheney are being shaken and rattled daily by mysterious blasts at the U.S. Naval Observatory where Cheney lives. The Navy says the explosions are part of a construction project that has been going on for several months now…”
    My concern: once the “shadow government” is voted out or impeached, how will we ever know…? After all, it was President Bush himself that warned all those years ago that some campaigns would be “cover operations, secret even in success.”

  • Darryl Pearce

    …grr. My apologies for the spelling errors.

  • Gahso

    The Powell shot is so ripe for interpretation. You have an out of focus Powell, looking dazed after being told [who-knows-what] and in the shot, he’s got two figures on his shoulders like the classic “devil and angel” dichotomoy. I don’t know who the statue-head is, but it provides a visual counterpoint to the Devil that is Cheney. I also get a Hamlet interpretation from that figure… Alas poor Yorick..
    These times are so increadible and increadibly scary. Deranged men have schemed their way to power, dismantling the democratic government of the most powerful nation on earth and picking fights with religious extremist radicals who stand between them and the planet’s dwindling energy resources. It’s so unbelievable that it wouldn’t even be a feasible political-thriller novel.

  • ummabdulla

    It looks like a grandfather being patient and indulging his 4-year-old grandson while the boy tells him a “tall tale”.
    Gahso (or Gasho?), I had the same thought about the two figures on Powell’s shoulders. Isn’t that LBJ’s head?

  • John Jernberg

    The shot of Cheney that is real creepy is the one of him hiding in the bushes during a Bush presser.

  • KO

    Wow, the face on Cheney as Powell is walking away sends a chill down my spine. Evil incarnate.

  • JJF

    Two of the many things I remember from 9/11 and the days immediately following. One, Cheney on TV describing the conversation he had with Bush about the order to shoot down planes, if necessary. He had a slip, saying at first he gave the order, then correcting himself to say the president gave the order. Also, a clip of Bush talking on TV, with Cheney present but looking down instead of at Bush, clearly uninterested in learning what the president had to say, but seemingly ready to step in if Bush got off-script. Bush looked rattled, most likelhy more intimidated by Cheney than the cameras and reporters. It was clear then that he was no match for his supposed #2. No one dared notice, no one dared criticize the president’s behavior. The need to gather strength from the president then was so great in those days, everyone looked the other way. The rest is history. We compounded one national tragedy with another, a war far more harmful to the country than anything done by terrorists, not to mention a human tragedy beyond measure.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I have tried to refrain from commenting about this post because I will only end up sounding like a curmudgeon and a party pooper, but I can’t help it. That’s because the Washington Post article is not “in-depth,” it is simply long and written in cloak-and-dagger style. (Just because an article is long, does not mean it is anything other than long.) Read these breathless sentences with a flashlight under the bedcovers:
    Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer.
    In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command.
    He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain.
    Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before.
    The president seized the helm when his No. 2 steered toward trouble,
    Their one-on-one relationship is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney’s impact on events. The two men speak of it seldom, if ever, with others.
    When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.

    Who reports like this? Clark Kent? It’s ridiculous! No wonder the wingnuts make fun of us moonbats. If we lap up this overwrought tripe, we deserve our all-talk/no-action Congress.
    Second clue that the article sucks: Out of 200 people interviewed, the first interview quoted is with Dan Quayle. Dan Quayle.
    Third clue the article sucks: Out of 200 people interviewed, the second interview quoted is with Mary Matalin. Mary Matalin! I’m not impressed. I bet I could get an equally bland quote from Mary Matalin.
    I admit I’ve read only 8 pages. And in those 8 pages, absolutely nothing happens. True, it’s a really exciting nothing. But it’s still nothing. On which page does it start to get damning? I’d like to skip ahead.
    But anyway, who cares if Cheney is the man pulling the many levers of power and government policy? (Note to WAPO: Enough with the levers already!) What does it change? That’s right: nothing. Remember way back in 2001 when a whole bunch of enemy combatants were rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo? I knew immediately they would be tortured mercilessly and never see the light of day again. How did I know this? I am not a fancy Washington Post reporter, I am not an award-winning blogger, I do not have multiple degrees. In fact, I have no education worth mentioning, no inside-the-beltway connections, no privilege, rank, or exceptional experience whatsoever. I am an ordinary American citizen who has observed one simple lesson from the history unfolding before me in my own lifetime: powerless people always get the sh*t kicked out of them. That’s because, it seems, anyone who can abuse power, will. I know I’m not the only one who has observed this.
    So why do I need to give credit (now) to a Washington Post article that I knew the ending to in September 2001? An article that’s the whole basis for linking twice to digby?
    Finally, I feel compelled to register a similar complaint about reading into photos what we as liberals want them to reveal. I know it’s fun, but it’s empty calories. No nutritional value. Cheney looks evil, mad, and power-hungry in almost any photograph. It’s a piece of cake.

  • Asta

    RTBAG, you may not be “a fancy Washington Post writer”, but damn you’re good! I’ve read your comment twice and both times my reaction has been, wow, that was powerful!
    I laughed when you pointed out “enough with the levers already!” because I was also thinking, “Boy, there sure is a whole lot of steering going on!”

  • Jacques

    The garbage is almost certainly a piece of paper that Shrub had twisted out of nervousityness on that fateful day.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    i like the “hand on the seat of power” observation, BAGman.
    rtbag, who can sing when she wants to, makes a good point, too. iirc ~ in the beginning (2001) most folks, upon viewing images of both Bush & Cheney, were moved to the point of expressing themselves (something such as) “Bush always looks small, by comparison; Cheney always looks somehow senior, more Presidential.” Consequently, again iirc ~ the WhiteHouse made a conscious effort to NOT depict the two men together ~ to avoid the discomfiture of obvious comparison, seen so readily here today in BAGman’s post.
    otoh rtbag, what’s changed is the conversation, imho.
    We were talk-talking and we were thinking something like, “goddam this rogue presidency! How can we Stop The War without ~60 votes in the face of His veto,” yadda yadda yadda.
    FWIW, the Washington Post’s pulitzer-me puh-leeze! length warmed-over bash-Vice hash is ‘in sync’ with the latest conversation, n’est-ce pas?
    i mean, “Rogue Presidency” is one thing; but a rogue Vice-Presidency is startling (!) more -or- less un-precedented in our history; so far out there that The Constitution simply fails to give us much guidance whatsoever: there was this conceit presumption implicit in our root document that The President would never allow, much less enable / encourage His office to be subordinated by That office.
    So, there was everybody talk-talking about “The Imperial Presidency,” and “The Unitary Executive,” and all this stuff…
    …and suddenly here we are confronted with a Vice-President who just fucking declares his office apart from Constitutional Law entirely, he’s just WAY the hell out there, a heluva lot further than most of us imagined; and when we’re thinking about HIS apparent grasp of the “levers of power” we’re all wondering one thing: we don’t want his smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud :-/

  • Rafael

    Two trivial things….
    The new meme “The River (of power) flows through him!”
    And why am I reminded of the two most famous conference rooms in all of movie history, (1) the war room in Dr. Strangelove and (2) the Death Star conference room?

  • Cactus

    I couldn’t possibly be the brilliant analyst that rtbag is, but I admit I read about 2/3 of the first article then started skipping over paragraphs looking for something new. One wonders now if these ‘reporters’ kept checking the blogs with a finger in the wind waiting for the time to do their big expose’ without getting into too much trouble. I love rtbag’s flashlight excerpts.
    But really, and c’mon, didn’t we all know that Darth was pulling the strings long ago. It does give new perspective on The W’s silly sh*t-eatin grin when he delivers bad news……..he’s probably thinking: ‘what a sly old dog my veep is.’ One sadist’s appreciation of another?

  • Harley

    Cactus: Apparently they did not know about Cheney’s manipulation of Bush within the Beltway. At least to judge by the reaction to the WAPO piece.

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