A Wartime Love Story
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
At the heart of every administration, there is one relationship above all others that shapes history. Ron and Nancy. Poppy Bush and James Baker. Billary. Cheney & Rummy.
W. is the hood ornament, but Cheney & Rummy are the chitty chitty bang bang engine of this administration. Their four-decade friendship stretches from Nixon to Bush II, from Vietnam to Vietnam II.
It’s a beautiful love story, really, even more touching than Ted Haggard, the evangelical preacher and Bush White House adviser, asking a male prostitute for crystal meth, or Borat putting a bag over the head of a squealing Pamela Anderson and carrying her off.
The country, the world, a growing number in their party, and some of the president’s own family may object to the star-crossed match of Cheney & Rummy, but the two men are secure in each other’s embrace. They’ve had tons of fun, from unmanning Colin Powell to unraveling the Geneva Conventions to undoing half a century of American foreign policy to unnerving the small Chesapeake Bay town of St. Michaels, Md., where they have bought weekend estates near each other.
Like some out-of-control manbot, Vice says they will continue “full speed ahead” in Iraq, no matter what voters say. “We’re not running for office,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We’re doing what we think is right.” Damn the democracy — full speed ahead.
W. ratified the Cheney-Rummy mésalliance this week, saying they were doing “fantastic” jobs and vowing to stick with them. He said “the good thing about Vice President Cheney’s advice is, you don’t read about it in the newspaper after he gives it.” (How would he know?) Being discreet when you give disastrous advice: priceless.
Noting that Rummy had presided over Afghanistan and Iraq while overhauling the military, W. said he was “pleased with the progress we’re making.” (Insert your own punch line here.)
Rummy did have one other defender. The House majority leader, John Boehner, told Wolf Blitzer that it is the generals who should be blamed if the war is going badly. So now Republicans are trashing Democrats for undermining the troops even as they’re undermining the troops?
Mr. Bush will go down in history as an isolated, naïve president who was led by Cheney & Rummy, when he could have gotten better advice from his dad and wife.
In his new book, “State of Denial,” Bob Woodward sketches a scene in which an anxious first lady presses Andy Card for information about the war. Mr. Card says he can’t tell her classified information, and she says that W. won’t tell her that stuff, either. She confides her fear that Rummy is hurting her husband and wonders why he puts up with it.
It’s enough to make you long for Nancy Reagan, who quickly dispatched advisers who were hurting her husband.
Even Rummy’s Iraq war cheerleaders, “Cakewalk” Ken Adelman and Richard “Nix Blix” Perle, are falling all over themselves to knife the Pentagon boss. Scaling new heights in the annals of Now They Tell Us, the two men blame the “dysfunctional” Bush team for the “disaster” in Iraq and say that if they had known then what we all know now (and what some of us knew then), they never would have pushed to invade Iraq.
In January’s Vanity Fair, Mr. Adelman told David Rose that when he wrote in 2002 that “liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk,” he “just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”
He said of his old friend Rummy: “I’m crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don’t know. He certainly fooled me.” He concludes that “the idea of using our power for moral good in the world” is finished, at least for a generation.
The neocons insist that it was the execution of the war that was wrong. Actually, it was wrong to go to war with a trumped-up casus belli and without ever debating what could happen if they took a baseball bat to a beehive. A war designed to bring moral good shouldn’t start with a pack of lies. As a Shakespeare expert, Mr. Adelman should have known about ends and means.
Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)