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April 24, 2009

Cheney: Somehow Still Top Drawer

Cheney signs drawer.jpg

The NYT used this photo today in its on-line Politics section promoting its latest Cheney update, the accompanying title reading: Unapologetic, Unrestrained: Cheney Unbound.

I’m interested in your take on this photo, as well as why it surfaces now. As the Getty caption describes (below), you see Cheney — as a ceremonial last act in office — leaving his signature on the inside of his White House desk drawer.

Has Cheney — the architect of the Bush foreign/terror policy, and “the” force to be reckoned with for most of the decade — embedded himself so powerfully into the political woodwork that he commands authority and weight in perpetuity? And if that is not the case, what is this tendency — at the exact moment Cheney’s torture agenda begins to officially unravel — to ensconce this man in the White House in regal alignment with political figures throughout the ages (such as Teddy Roosevelt). …I don’t know. Maybe the answer is to simply remind us (like we need reminding!) of Cheney’s hubris and institutional power?

And then, I can’t help but notice how the immediate audience — including members of the media, otherwise right in front of Dick and snapping away — appear in the ornately gilded mirror, as if they couldn’t be more thoroughly separated, distant, contained — and “framed,” of course.

The actual photo in the NYT article brings to mind a similar question of “aura.” See our discussion at BNN last month:

(image: David Bohrer/White House via Getty Images. caption: This official White House photograph shows US Vice President Dick Cheney signing the inside of the top drawer of his desk in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office on Monday, January 12, 2009 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. The desk, constructed in 1902 and first used by President Theodore Roosevelt, has been signed by various presidents and vice presidents since the 1940s. Mrs. Lynne Cheney is seen at right.)

  • Gasho

    Oh, how I’d love to see Darkblack’s usage of this photo!!!!!
    I can just see one of those mock surgeries – where the shaman pulls bloody chicken guts out of an un-cut patients chest as if removing evil demons… isn’t it just perfect???
    At first glance I thought he was using his bare hands to rip open a secret compartment under a drawer in his official office to reveal something..
    perhaps proof of his innocence; or the still pumping heart of Saddam H., or a shrunken head from Yale.

  • chachabowl

    “And after I took the drawer containing the ‘President’s Book of Secrets’ from the Resolute desk, I replaced the drawer with this facsimile to make him think he had forgotten the book back in Crawford.”

  • paulo

    Torture, shredding the Constitution, and starting illegal wars aren’t enough? He’s gotta add vandalism to his rap sheet?

  • vcInCA

    this is classic graffiti–just like we sign ppl’s t-shirts at graduation and carve our names in trees and benches in parks.
    however, you (michael) ask whether he has embedded himself in perpetuity through acts like this, but also describe the situation as a ‘ceremonial last act’-which implies that he’s not the first-nor the last- to do such. i think that he has definitely embedded himself in perpetuity, but not through graffiti, which most of us recognize as childish, as a way of saying ‘remember me!’ Instead, he’s saying ‘remember this’ and we’re actually remembering something else. his signing is a failure, in that sense
    You also ask why, when he’s being spotlighted and exposed for what he’s done, such ceremonially embedded acts, which locate him as part of an ongoing series of powerful personalities, are being forefronted. my thoughts: cheney signing the desk was not only a tradition, it was also showing his *departure*, after which we can explore, condone, or valorize his behavior. but none of those things can really happen while he’s in office, so his signing, in a sense, opens the door to more thoughtful and critical exploration. in that way, i like this pic being used with that article.

  • antpoppa

    I want to see him in hell.

  • thebewilderness

    It’s a good thing you told me. I thought he was showing them the secret drawer panel where he keeps the list of who came to the oil executives meeting.

  • bg

    When he goes to trial and is convicted of war crimes, will his name be erased?

  • fastneataverage

    Hopefully he’s carving his own tombstone.

  • lytom

    Incomprehensible! He has survived and is on the offensive. Of course, there is no danger he will be put behind bars in the US. For that to happen, he would have to travel to another country that values human rights above politics.
    The process of the “wood signing” reminds me of the “plywood wall” from the Guantanamo camp hospital, posted on Bag April 17th.

  • Jonathan

    It’s extraordinary how this man leeches any hint of joy from the atmosphere around him.

  • bystander

    What strikes me about this photo is how old and frail his hands look. They should be the hands of a wise old grandfather. But, they aren’t. Increasingly, it appears that they are the hands of a sadist. I am left hoping that I never have to touch anything those hands have touched. Were I to use that desk, I would send that drawer to the National Archives to store or dispose, and commission a new drawer to be made for the desk. The incongruity between the nature of his hands and what those hands wrought seems striking to me.

  • elfpix

    Interesting how big the space is between him and those looking at him.

  • Vulture Breath

    What’s striking to me is that it’s so rare for Cheney to leave a visible imprint, or imprimatur, or signature, on anything. Everything is secretive – no fingerprints. He doesn’t want anything traced back to him. No records open to the public, unless they serve his propaganda purposes. He will only leave a visible mark on something if it is completely trivial.

  • Russ Nichols

    As a teacher and husband of an artist, I often see one of those big ol’ paper choppers with the long very sharp blade, and pivoted on the end. You know the thing. My first take was that Cheney was leaning over one of those paper slicers. Which would make a very good torture instrument for chopping off fingers and such. I thought maybe Cheney was just giving it a fond goodbye kiss before he left his office for the last time.

  • Kitt

    Seriously, Dick Cheney – actually the entire Cheney clan, but Dick in particular, I think I would be SO inclined to spit on – and may just take up the vice of chewing tobacco to provide more ephasis. That entire cadre: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, Richard Meyer (Myer?), Addison, Yoo – just makes me soo SICK I wouldn’t make any attempt to be kind. Good thing I’m only Catholic and not a Christian…..
    I watched ‘Doubt’ last night. Let me tell ya, Sister James is a better woman than me.

  • Rima

    What’s he signing with — his fingernail?

  • Pingback: Michael Shaw: Reading the Pictures: Cheney’s Audacious Memoir Cover (And Claim to the Empire) |

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