Democracies cannot dispense with hypocrisy any more than dictatorships can with cynicism.
Georges Bernanos We French
The honor and decency that we were promised when Messrs. Bush and Cheney entered the White House has taken a back seat in the Bush administration in recent weeks. Vice president Dick Cheney was one of the first to usher them to the back of the bus.
Mr. Cheney’s attack on decency and civility may be attributed to suggestions from his doctors that it’s bad for his fragile (and not particularly kind) heart to permit anger to stay pent up inside. Whatever the reason, Senator Patrick Leahy’s frequent use of the H word over the past several months when questioning the vice president’s activities on behalf of his former employer caused Mr. Cheney to erupt in a plume of anger and foul language when Mr. Leahy attempted to address him in a cordial manner on the floor of the United States Senate.
Mr. Leahy is not the only person in the country for whom the H word is intriguing. It is intriguing because Mr. Cheney was once H’s CEO and the company has had brilliant financial success since the mantle of the vice-presidency was placed upon his shoulders by the Supreme Court. Lots of people wonder if the reason H has done so well is because Mr. Cheney, while hiding out from real and imagined terrorists, spent his time peddling influence in H’s behalf. Mr. Cheney denies it. He not only doesn’t like being called an influence peddler but says the decision to hire H to rebuild Iraq and pay it more than $1 billion was made by government career procurement specialists with no involvement by senior political appointees. That was, as is much of what Mr. Cheney says, a lie. A Pentagon report released June 14 said the Pentagon got the assent of senior Bush administration officials before hiring Haliburton to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq’s oil facilities. The vice president’s chief of staff was one of those officials. Confronted with the contradiction between Mr. Cheney and the Pentagon report, Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for Mr. Cheney said: “We stand by our earlier statements on this matter.” That’s as good an answer as there is when you’ve been caught lying.
At a picture taking session on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont approached Mr. Cheney to greet him. Upon seeing the approaching senator, the vice president reportedly “recoiled.” When Mr. Leahy suggested that Mr. Cheney apparently had an aversion to talking to democrats, Mr. Cheney responded by suggesting in crude terms that Mr. Leahy do the anatomically impossible and walked off in a huff.
When asked on Fox news whether the episode occurred Mr. Cheney responded by saying that that was not the sort of language he usually uses. Later he acknowledged that he had used a crude word identified in most of the media only by its initial letter but explained that he “felt better after I had done it.” That, he apparently thinks, makes it alright.
Honor and decency in the White House, however, went even further back in the bus when the Republican National Committee put together a really clever video called “The Faces of John Kerry’s Democratic Party.” It includes snippets of speeches by former vice president Al Gore, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Richard Gebhardt and Adolph Hitler. All of the speakers except Adolph Hitler were attacking Mr. Bush. Mr. Hitler was speaking German and shouting. It is not clear at whom but the odds are it was not at Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry. In fact it was probably a generic speech attacking people whom Hitler disliked. By including Adolph Hitler in the clip one can safely assume that George Bush who is not strong on history, believes that Adolph Hitler is somehow tied in to the Kerry campaign. Since Mr. Bush also thinks al Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein and that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, it’s not much of a leap for him to believe that Adolph Hitler is involved in the Kerry campaign.
The video appears on Mr. Bush’s reelection website, GeorgeWBush.com. A click on “Kerry”s Coalition of the Wild Eyed” or “The Many Faces of John Kerry” will activate the video. As clever as Mr. Bush is to try to link John Kerry to Adolph Hitler not everyone will immediately understand the connection. As the campaign moves on, I am sure Mr. Bush will explain the purpose of including it on his website.