Monday, October 27, 2008

So you think vice president is just in-waiting job?

A dynamic vice president and a weak or ineffective president is a formula for taking the Constitution and turning it into toilet paper. This isn't theory, it's fact and it's been going on for the past eight years.

It's been the Dick Cheney presidency and it's not pretty.

Later on, we'll talk about the folks who want to convene a constitutional convention in Connecticut, why it's a bad idea, and how they are lying to the electorate about not being able to look at the Connecticut Constitution for 20 more years if we don't to it now.

By the way, happy Monday.

Last week, my wife and I saw W., the Oliver Stone film about the Bush presidency. It's a work of fiction, but not entirely. 

At the same time, I've been reading Angler, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman's book about the Cheney vice presidency, based on his  Pulitzer Prize-winning stories (written with Jo Becker). 

It's a scary combination.

Angler tells the story about how Cheney, with Bush's complacency and in some cases complicity, basically took over the presidency. It tells how Cheney wangled himself into the job of picking Bush's candidate for vice president, and then arranged it so the only possible choice was himself. 

There was a telling incident during the first hours of Sept. 11, 2001. Cheney, after being "frog walked" (grabbed by the collar and belt and hustled along the corridor) by the Secret Service into the White House bunker after he wanted to tough it out in his office, was coordinating the response to the attacks.

Bush was on Air Force One, being flown around to keep him safe since there was no way of knowing if other planes were heading for targets in Washington, D.C. United Flight 93, which was recaptured from terrorists by heroic passengers but crashed in Pennsylvania, could have been heading for the White House.

The scene was chaotic with true and false reports of airplanes crashing or heading for Washington. It was Flight 93 and it has already crashed, but there was no live radar and the Federal Aviation Administration, apparently relying on projection, kept reporting the plane heading for Washington, now 60 miles out, now 30, now 10.

Quoting from the book: "Sometime between 10:10 and 10:15 a.m., a military aide asked the vice president a question never faced by the U.S. government in its own airspace. The jetliner was presumed hostile , but packed with innocents. Should the Air Force shoot it down? Cheney paused for 'about the time it takes a batter to swing , maybe starting from the windup,' (vice presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis) "Scooter" Libby said later. Then he answered: Yes."

Whether this was the proper choice (I think it was) wasn't the question, Gellman says. It was whether Cheney had the right to make that decision. A dozen years earlier, the same Cheney told R. Danforth Quayle, the vice president in the previous Bush administration, that the vice president had no lawful place in the chain of command.

In fact Bush and Cheney put out that Bush himself had issued the order and Cheney had only passed it on. Their stories changed a half-dozen times over the next months and the Sept. 11 Commission ducked on the question. Whether Bush and Cheney lied about it is not the real issue. It's a symptom.

"On Sept. 11 and afterward, Cheney staked out decisions of great national moment without explicit authority from Bush," Gellman asserts. Those decisions had to do with vice presidential authority in the Legislative Branch. The vice president, Sarah Palin's answer to a young questioner notwithstanding, does not run the Senate. Don't tell that to Cheney.

Cheney also wormed his tentacles into the legislative branch, the environment -- so much so that he forced the resignation of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman -- and the national security debate. He was responsible for the draconian spying done on innocent U.S. citizens, the beginning of the emasculation of the Geneva Convention; the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the redefinition of torture, and, to a large part, the decision to invade Iraq. 

In other words, many of the horrible decisions for which George W. Bush is blamed came from Cheney, according to Gellman.

In the movie "W.", Stone alludes to some of this and Richard Dreyfuss plays Cheney with just the right touch of malevolence. He sits in the background but, with his staff and lawyers in the various departments, worms his way into being Bush's puppet master. 

So, when voting next week, we need to be careful about whom we pick as vice president, especially if, for whatever reason, we vote for a candidate who may morph into a weak president, for reasons of infirmity, lack of vision or whatever.

We don't need another Richard Cheney. 

Page 2

Beside the elections for president, there are local offices and the Congress. We can't get rid of either of our sorry Senators this time around. Too bad.

The choices around here are pretty cclear.  Rosa DeLauro is a shoo-in to go back to Congress, and that's a good thing. She's super-liberal but has a good heart and has represented us well. In the 92nd House district in New Haven, Pat Dillon is good people, an experienced and caring person, who should make it back. Let's make sure she does. Toni Harp has done a good job in the Senate.  

There is one more vote that hasn't gotten a lot of publicity, but is important. In Connecticut, when there is a constitutional convention, it is unlimited. Anything can happen. In Connecticut, when anything can happen, it usually does.

There is a lot of talk about how we can't amend the constitution because it can only be amended by a convention . Not true.  They're also saying a convention can only be called every 20 years, and if we don't do it now, it will be two decades before we can. Also not true.

Right-wing groups want to remake the constitution in their own image.  The many more at the bottom include reversing a woman's right to choose and the usual right-wing agenda. 

My vote: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Page 3

While I'm at it, a word about the current economic crisis. HELP!

Seriously, folks, I wouldn't mind so much if the whole economy were resettling at a lower level. In other words, if our investments and savings were worth, say, a third less than they were a few months ago AND things cost a third less than they did a few months ago, it wouldn't be so bad.

Gas and other fuel prices have gone down, but our friends at the electric company want about a 5 percent increase. Food prices as up. The airlines still are tacking on fuel surcharges even though fuel doesn't cost anything like what it cost last spring and summer.

It looks like we are heading for stagflation, the deal we had with Jimmy Carter. Incomes are stagnant or reducing, but prices inflate. Worst of both worlds.

Our leaders still don't get it. Banks are taking money and buying other banks, not lending the money to consumers so that the consumers could spend it. Consumer spending is the lion's share of the economy. So, as they have done for time immemorial, throwing money to the top in the hopes that it trickles down to the rest of us doesn't work.

How in the name of all that's holy can anyone think of voting for John McCain, who is an advocate of this nonsense?

Until next time, 

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