Friday, June 29, 2007

David Broder sees the light on Cheney. Joshua Marshall unimpressed

The Washington Post's David Broder sees the light on Cheney:

Years ago Lamar Alexander, the senator from Tennessee, told me of a lesson he had learned as a young man on the White House staff: It is always useful for the president to have at least one aide who has had a successful career already, who does not need the job, and who therefore can offer candid advice. When he was governor of Tennessee, Alexander made sure he had such a person on his staff.

Later, when presidential candidate George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate, I applauded the choice, thinking that Cheney would fill the role Alexander had outlined. Boy, was I wrong.

The role model for Alexander was Bryce Harlow, the diminutive, modest and universally trusted White House player in the Eisenhower and Nixon years. Cheney, as described in a breathtakingly detailed series in The Post this week by reporters Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, is something else.

What they discovered, in a year of work that reveals more about the inner workings of this
White House than any previous reporting, is a vice president who used the broad authority given him by a complaisant chief executive to bend the decision-making process to his own ends and purposes, often overriding Cabinet officers and other executive branch officials along the way.

But Joshua Marshall is less than impressed:

Yesterday David Broder wrote a column which one TPM Reader, more or less fairly, described as Broder's expression of shock, shock at just what Dick Cheney has been up to over the last six-plus years. And this is a good opportunity to say that the Post's 'Angler' series seems to be becoming the trigger for that transition moment where consensus establishment opinion goes from seeing the vice president as the powerful administration heavy with a sometimes creepy but largely comic penchant for secrecy to an altogether more nefarious force who has used his unprecedented power as vice president to advance an agenda of official secrecy, non-accountability, untrammeled executive power, legitmized torture and general degradation of the rule of law.

But this is far too easy. Because the simple fact is that we've known almost all of this for years.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking the series, which is quite good. In journalism, details, the specifics are all. But the story in general has been out there for years, as well as a good number of the specifics, strewn over hundreds, probably thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, online and off.

In other words, when it comes to recognizing Cheney's profoundly damaging effect on American constitutionalism as well as his guiding role in essentially all of the administration's most disastrous policies, the train already left the station some time ago.


He's right. Yes, the Post's series is excellent, and it's good that the opinion of the Washington establishment has finally turned against Cheney. But it's too bad it took so long for them to realize something that was quite obvious as far back as the last presidential election.

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