By Hendrik Hertzberg
The New Yorker
13 March 2006 Issue
...Cheney is Bush without the charm, the religiosity, the Michael Gerson speech texts, and the Presidential sheen. What he personifies, above all, is the raw reality of Bush's signature policies, all of which he has had a strong hand in creating. There are the giant tax cuts for the rich, especially the very rich. ("We won the midterms," Cheney told Bush's economic team, according to the journalist Ron Suskind, when another such cut was on the table, after the 2002 congressional elections. "This is our due.") There is the related, and enormous, budget deficit, which will necessitate another $800-billion rise in the debt limit by the middle of this month if the government is to avoid defaulting on its obligations. ("Deficits don't matter," Cheney once explained.) There is the strategically and morally disastrous misconduct of te "war on terror," including authorized torture, defiantly unlawful domestic surveillance, and habitual, self-defeating contempt for allied opinion and international instruments. There is the toxic combination of reflexive secrecy and the political use of secrets, as in the Scooter Libby affair. There is, in place of an energy policy, obeisance to the oil industry-and thus to the petrocracy of the Middle East. (Conservation, according to Cheney, is "a personal virtue.") Above all, there is the terrible war in Iraq, undertaken on the basis of faulty, willfully distorted, sometimes falsified intelligence and now about to enter its fourth year, with no end in sight to the bloodshed and chaos. ("I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency," Cheney said last June.) Against this background, the figure of twenty-three per cent is not shockingly low. It's shockingly high.
Quoting "senior G.O.P. sources," Insight, an obscure but well-connected Washington "news magazine," asserted last week that Cheney will "probably" be eased into retirement after November's congressional elections. That seems far-fetched. Bush, who has pushed his biological father beyond the periphery of his official circle, is unlikely to do the same to the substitute he acquired when Cheney, entrusted with the task of finding George W. Bush a running mate, found himself. "There is a higher father that I appeal to," Bush famously told Bob Woodward three years ago. He wasn't talking about Cheney, but he might as well have been. George W. Bush is far more deferential to Cheney (draft evader, Yale dropout, and tough-guy conservative) than to George H. W. Bush (war hero, Yale Phi Beta Kappa, and kinder, gentler moderate). If, come next year, Cheney really does resign his office "for reasons of health," he will have done so, almost certainly, for reasons of health.