Dick Cheney and Justice

My standard procedure for reading anything written by Bill Kristol is to dismiss it, but even I can’t dismiss this claim he made about Dick Cheney in today’s New York Times:

“You gotta love Dick Cheney.

O.K., O.K. … you don’t have to. But consider this exchange with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday”:

WALLACE: Did you really tell Senator Leahy, bleep yourself?

CHENEY: I did.

WALLACE: Any qualms, or second thoughts, or embarrassment?

CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time. (Laughter.) And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.

No spin. No doubletalk. A cogent defense of his action — and one that shows a well-considered sense of justice. (“I thought he merited it.”) Indeed, if justice is seeking to give each his due, one might say that Dick Cheney aspires to being a just man. And a thoughtful one, because he knows that justice is sometimes too harsh, and should be tempered by civility.”

I just couldn’t believe what I was reading: did Bill Kristol really set out to defend Cheney as a man aspiring for justice? Surely even someone as preposterous as Kristol cannot write something this preposterous?

Let’s break this thing down. First of all, it’s really incredible that Kristol claims that Cheney has no spin and doubletalk because, for crying out loud, Dick Cheney claimed that the Vice Presidency belongs to neither the legislative nor executive branch, but is instead its own fourth branch of government! How is this not doubletalk?

Second, just because Dick Cheney thought that Patrick Leahy deserved to be verbally abused does not make so that Patrick Leahy actually deserves to be verbally abused. Dick Cheney merely made an assertion about what Leahy deserved without justifying that assertion with any kind of evidence. How is that a display of a “well-considered sense of justice?”

…unless what Bill Kristol assumes is that whatever Dick Cheney thought is just, is in fact just.

This is just too much to accept. It kind of reminds me of Nixon’s assertion that whatever the President does, it is not illegal. Similarly, Bill Kristol seems to be attributing to Cheney this kind of power: whatever Cheney thinks is just, is just. In this respect, both Nixon and Cheney operate outside and above law and justice: they dictate what is legal and what is just.

This, in fact, seems to be Kristol’s overall argument in writing this column. In the last part of his column, Kristol quotes Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If“:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;”

In quoting this poem, Kristol seems to suggest that Dick Cheney somehow possesses wisdom that is unknowable to other people who disagree with him, like on Iraq, like on the surge, like on pretty much everything that Cheney has had a hand in (which is a lot).

It’s actually kind of scary how much Kristol is towing the line for the Bush Administration here. The central Bush doctrine, one that isn’t even about foreign policy, is far more dangerous: it’s the doctrine of unlimited executive power. Somehow we, as citizens, are supposed to give up our democratic process and delegate all power to an all-powerful, well-intentioned executive, and trust that he’ll protect us and do the right thing.

This is patently bullshit, but it’s bullshit that has been perpetrated throughout the eight years of this Administration. Cheney doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that maybe the Administration is wrong, that maybe the dissenters actually have good points to make, that disagreement isn’t treachery. But no, Cheney assumes that whatever the executive does, it is just and it is legal, even if it goes against existing laws and morality (like torture, like illegaly wiretappings, like starting a war on false pretext).

And somehow the Adminsitration and its cronies, among whom Kristol is a prominent member, still think that history will redeem their doctrine of unlimited executive powers.

To defend Cheney in the name of Justice is to sully the very concept. Sometimes, and it’s becoming most of the time, I’ve stopped having any kind of faith in the New York Time’s ability to have a real columnist (aside from Paul Krugman).


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