"You Will Be Visited by Three US Attorneys Tonight..."
By Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari
No doubt it was common sport over the last eight years, one not unakin to shooting the proverbial fish in the proverbial barrel with the proverbial quail-hunting shotgun, to compare Dick Cheney to Ebenezer Scrooge. The first Scrooge we saw, after all, was the quintessential Republican, snarling at charity workers hitting him up for donations and asking if we still can't put the poor in workhouses.
But in light of recent events, Dick Cheney has in a way resembled another character from Dickens' classic Christmas tale: Jacob Marley. Like Marley, Scrooge's old business partner, Cheney has been shambling out into the warm cloisters of Fox's and CBS's sound stages, chains used at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram clanking loudly and ludely, to haunt the GOP, which would suffice nicely in our extended metaphor as our collective, cantankerous misanthrope Scrooge.
In this recasting of A Christmas Carol, Cheney/Marley comes back when everyone least expected it, with the Republican party clutching their bedsheets and KKK outfits up to their triple chins and worrying of what Cheney will remind them, and us, next. Like all ghosts, Cheney's appearance came unexpectedly since he was hardly less visible and verbose than Osama bin Laden. For eight years, after all, Cheney was more of a heavily-rumored, semi-documented haunting in the West Wing, one who no doubt pulled Abe Lincoln out of the Abe Lincoln bedroom by his ear and snarling about how he'd betrayed the party he'd helped found.
Therefore, it's a matter of truly shitty timing for President Obama to be signaling a simultaneous about-face in both his advocacy to release photographs of detainee torture and abuse and keeping Guantanamo Bay prisoners detained indefinitely without charge. These are decisions that we could've expected coming from the Cheney administration. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham suspended his rug safaris long enough to ask aloud, "This is a difficult question. How do you hold someone in prison without a trial indefinitely?"
The answer? With impunity for seven years and counting, in some cases.
Perception in politics being everything, it doesn't matter how many times the Obama administration and its own army of flaks and spin doctors fan out and say, "Oh, no, this has nothing to do with the former Vice President's embrace of torture as a principle means of safeguarding national security! This is a strictly autonomous administration." The timing alone makes this double reversal on Mr. Obama's part flunk the smell test with flying colors.
And it's the White House's possible skewed perception of Cheney's impact on current policymaking that we have to seriously consider. Cheney is a man who now enjoys a 30% approval rating and, as stated, Republicans cringe every time he gets wheeled out on his customary Hannibal Lecter dolley to give an interview. The majority of Americans, depending on which poll you listen to, want justice for these Gitmo detainees and are sickened by our use of torture. So what other view is the Obama administration kowtowing to now?
Cheney stands alone, essentially within the GOP (im)proper in his loud proclamations that torture is the way to go and any repudiation of it will result in another 9/11. Moderate Republicans, especially, those darling little Scrooges-in-transition, are just now waking up and wondering what went wrong like the murderous automatons at the end of I, Robot. Yet one is still plugged into the system and still wreaking mayhem.
The glaring inconsistency in my running metaphor of Cheney acting like Jacob Marley is this: Scrooge's old partner in crime made an untimely appearance to express remorse for their indiscretions and to advise Scrooge to similarly repent before it is too late. Dick Cheney, even when at last he becomes a ghost, will be as unrepentant of OKing torture as he is in the meat world.