Bush administration cast of characters (a brief overview)

Cast of characters
From left: Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Andrew Card, George Tenet (seated) and Donald Rumsfeld. December 2001

Colin Powell, Secretary of State. Served during Bush’s first term in office, seen as a moderate within the Bush cabinet. Powell initially opposed an invasion of Iraq, preferring to continue the strategy of containment (as he did in the Gulf War); eventually he conceded on the condition that an invasion was multilateral. Powell then headed the diplomatic effort to gain support from the international community, speaking at the United Nations and citing concern over Iraq’s biological and potentially nuclear weapons: it was later found that he used faulty intelligence, taking a hit in his public approval rating but still having convinced the UN to partially support invasion. Powell’s reluctance to advocate invasion foreshadowed political infighting between his State Department, and Rumsfeld’s Defense Department and Cheney’s office on issues surrounding Iran and North Korea. His resignation was effective at the end of Bush’s first term. Powell had also served as National Security Adviser under Reagan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under H.W. Bush and Clinton.

Condoleeza Rice, National Security Adviser and Secretary of State. Served as NSA during the first Bush term, and Secretary of State during the second. Though she met with CIA Director Tenet several times over the summer of 2001, she fundamentally ignored intelligence warning of a terrorist attack. In 2002 she approved the use of waterboarding and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Tenet, and in 2003 she, Attorney General John Ascroft and Cheney reaffirmed that such methods were legal. That year she became an advocate of invading Iraq, citing intelligence on Iraqi WMDs. After claiming executive privilege, she appeared before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States on 8 April 2004, becoming the first NSA to testify on matters of policy. As Secretary of State she advocated reform and democratization of the MENA region. Though she had strong presidential support, she was kept out of discussions regarding trying enemy combatants in military tribunals, a position Cheney advocated.

Andrew Card, Jr., White House Chief of Staff. Bush’s first Chief of Staff. On 11 September 2001 while Bush was conducting an education event, it was Card who whispered in his ear that terrorists had attacked the United States. He sided with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman when she objected to a plan by Cheney’s energy task force to transfer authority of regulating some power plant emissions to the Energy Department. His resignation was effective 14 April 2006.

George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence for the CIA. Oversaw WMD intelligence reports and the expansion of executive interrogation techniques. In 2000, Tenet urged caution towards the CIA fielding the lethal Predator drone in Afghanistan, but eventually agreed (on Rice’s suggestion) that testing and eventual deployment should be carried out. During the summer of 2001 he met with Rice on several occasions, highlighting the threat of terrorism, but he was ultimately ignored. Tenet allegedly lent his private authority to the intelligence reports about WMDs in Iraq, assuring Bush that the evidence amounted to “a slam dunk case” (after months of refusing to confirm the statement, he claimed it was taken out of context). Under Tenet’s directorship, the CIA authorized the President to use waterboarding and EITs on three suspected Al-Qaeda members. His resignation was submitted on 3 June 2004, one day before his Deputy Director of the CIA James Pavitt’s.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense. Cheney’s mentor under the Nixon and Ford administrations. He led the military planning and execution of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and shared Dick’s position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Al-Queda and Taliban captives. Rumsfeld resigned after the November 2004 election. He also served as White House Chief of Staff (succeeded by Cheney) and later, Secretary of Defense, under Ford.

Bush Rove
13 August 2007

Karl Rove, Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff. Bush’s chief political and campaign adviser. In 2002 and 2003 Rove chaired the White House Iraq Group, which was dedicated to illustrating the threat of Saddam Hussein and ultimately recommended invasion. In the victory speech after his 2004 re-election Bush thanked Rove and named him “the architect” of his successful campaign. Many assumed that decisions made by Cheney and executed by Rove were Rove’s alone (such as reversing the decision to cut off irrigation water to farmers in favor of a threatened species of fish), an indication of Cheney’s success at staying behind the scenes. His resignation was effective 31 August 2007.

Cheney Libby
1 July 2005

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s Chief of Staff and Assistant for National Security Affairs, assistant to the President. Convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in unmasking Valery Plame Wilson. Libby resigned all three of his positions when his indictment was announced in 2005, damaging Cheney’s reputation in the process. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000, but on 2 July 2007 his prison sentence was commuted by Bush. He is the highest ranking government official convicted in a government scandal since John Pointdexter, Reagan’s National Security Adviser in the Iran-Contra affair.

Addington
5 November 2007

David S. Addington, Cheney’s Chief of Staff. Worked under Cheney in Congress and the Pentagon, succeeded Libby as Chief of Staff. He expanded the legal powers of the Executive during wartime, and drafted the Gonzales memo which stated Al-Queda and Taliban captives should not be covered under the Geneva Conventions.

Bush Robert
20 July 2005

John G. Roberts, Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. Appointed as Supreme Court Justice to replace Sandra Day O’Conner after her retirement in 2005, after Cheney had compiled the final list of five candidates. He was promoted later that year to Chief Justice, replacing the late William Rehnquist. His appointment and promotion have served as Bush and Cheney’s conservative mark on the Court: among his decisions, he has ruled that university’s accepting federal money must allow military recruiters on campus; upheld the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Act; and ruled that a student in a public school-sponsored activity does not have the right to advocate drug use on the basis that free speech does not invariably prevent the exercise of school discipline. At age 50, he was the youngest person to be appointed Chief Justice in 200 years.

Bush Cheney Greenspan
5 February 2001

Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman. A laissez-faire capitalist, Objectivist and part of the Ayn Rand Collective. He was nominated by Bush to serve an unprecedented 5th term on 18 May 2004. When Greenspan met with Bush, Cheney was always present. Though he explained to the administration his worry of the Bush tax cuts on the national deficit, his comments were ultimately ignored. Greenspan retired in 2006, after the second-longest tenure in the position.

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On Mubarak, counter-terrorism, and the Gipper

Cheney shakes Mubarak's hand
13 May 2007

Our Dick was the keynote speaker at the ‘Reagan 100’ event this past Saturday, where he commented on the protests in Egypt and the Obama administration in an interview-style discussion lead by Frank Donatelli.

When asked about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Dick recollected how Mubarak was among the first to support the American coalition aiming to liberate Kuwait from Iraq in the Gulf War, offering over-flight rights and providing troops.

“So he’s been a good man and a good friend and ally of the United States, and we need to remember that.”

Cheney said that America’s role now is to continue private communication with Mubarak, presuming that he’ll be as receptive now as he’s been over the past three decades.

“It’s also important when you get into these circumstances, that you try to have an open channel of communications that is private to whoever it is you’re dealing with out there. It is very hard for some foreign leader to act on US advise in a visible way,” suggesting that leaders run the risk of appearing like American puppets to their people. “There’s a reason why a lot of diplomacy is conducted in secret. There are good reasons for there to be confidentiality in some of those communications. And I think President Mubarak needs to be treated, um, as he deserved over the years, because he has been a good friend.”

Cheney was then asked his opinion on whether or not Mubarak’s regime would survive the uprising. Like most American politicians, our Dick was uncertain.
“I don’t want to make a prediction, because I don’t know. But I also think that, you know, there comes a time for everybody to hang it up and move on, and for someone else to take over. … But as I say that’s a decision that only the Egyptians can make.”

Interestingly, Cheney was nearly as light-handed when discussing the Obama administration: he praised the Petraeus appointment and failed to raise any concerns over Obama’s counter-terrorism policies.

“The good news is, I sense, that they’ve backed off on some of their more outrageous propositions,” he said. “I notice Guantanamo’s still open.”

He spent the next few minutes defending the legality of the Bush administration’s approach towards terrorists. Of course, Dick also had a few words to say on the man of honor:

“We associate idealism with youth, but the oldest man ever elected president was also the most idealistic. And he brought out that quality in the American people. He inspired the kind of affection that even great men cannot claim by right, but goes only to the truly good. Kindness, simplicity, and decency marked his entire life… Long before he first journeyed here to California and long after he returned here from Washington. In remembering his final years, we might also add courage for the gallant manful way in which he left us.”

I’m sure Dick is aspiring to demonstrate the same sort of gallantry in the coming years.

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Dick for Maria for Chairman

Unfortunately for Michael Steele, his chairmanship of the Republican National Committee is up for election on 20 January 2011. Holding a two year term, the position could prove to be crucial during the 2012 Presidential election, and major players within the Party are placing their bids for “anybody but Steele”.

Our former VP is sponsoring Maria Cino in her bid for Chairman; last week he headlined a fundraiser along with other former W. era advisors.

Cino has served as deputy Chairman of the RNC, deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation under W., and political director of his 2000 presidential campaign. She’s enjoying support from former Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie, former Counselor to Cheney Mary Matalin, and former Bush aides Melissa Bennett and Emily Lampkin.

Despite his overwhelming lack of support, Steele has declared that he will seek reelection in 2011. Other candidates include former RNC political director Gentry Collins, former US Ambassador to Luxembourg under W. Ann Wagner, former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin Reince Priebus, and Chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party Gary Emineth.

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Congressional Cheney

That smile...

21 March 1983

Cheney was consecutively elected six times as Wyoming’s at-large representative, serving from 1979–1989. From 1981–1987 Cheney was the Chairman of the Republican Party Committee; in 1988 he was elected House Minority Whip where he served for two months before being appointed Secretary of Defense. His voting record while in Congress was consistently conservative, and became increasingly so as he rose within the Republican Party.

Points of interest in Cheney’s voting record are as follows:

  • 1979 – Voted against creating the Department of Education, following the Party line which claimed it would centralize education in Washington and encroach on states’ rights.
  • 1982 – Voted against Endangered Species Act amendments which established that only biological factors were to be considered in determining a species’ status; this directly opposed Reagan’s executive order 12291 which required economic analysis of all government agency actions. Congress, but not Cheney, rejected 12291.
  • 1983 – Voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, along with 145 other members of Congress.
  • 1985 – Voted against the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act which outlawed the manufacturing and importing of armor-piercing (‘cop-killing’) bullets.
  • 1986 – Voted against Safe Drinking Act amendments which required more contaminants to be regulated and increased enforcement power.
  • 1986 – Voted against overriding Reagan’s veto on the bill to impose economic sanctions on apartheid South Africa because unilateral sanctions “almost never work”.
  • 1986 – Voted against a non-binding resolution calling on South Africa to release Nelson Mandela from prison; the resolution was defeated.
  • 1986 – Voted for Firearm Owners Protection Act which revised the Gun Control Act of 1968 and weakened gun control legislation.
  • 1988 – Voted against a gun control bill (‘Brady amendment’, predecessor to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act) eliminating over-the-counter sales of handguns and mandating a national seven day waiting period, allowing for background checks.
  • 1988 – Voted against a gun control bill (S.465) outlawing the manufacturing and use of plastic guns, unidentifiable by metal-detectors and x-rays used at airports.

Cheney’s conservative Congressional voting record reflects his preference for decentralized government and his general disdain for Congress’ checks on the Executive. His stance on gun control was more conservative than the NRA’s, but this is not surprising since he represented Wyoming. Cheney’s seemingly anti-environmental policies also stem from his state, where coal and petroleum are major industries; the regional center for fossil fuels is named the Dick Cheney Federal Building. Dick’s foreign policy hardly changes when he becomes SecDef, where he continues to reject the use of sanctions. The sentiments of these votes are echoed in the coming years as Cheney gains status and power, demonstrating that the man remains steadfast and unchanged from the beginning (or, we could have seen it coming).

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Ideological origins of the expanded Executive

25 July 1983

Cheney began his political career as an intern for William Steiger in 1969, and the Nixon administration shaped his broader political beliefs. Post-Watergate, executive power was at a low; Dick campaigned for Ford (who lost to Carter in 1976) and thereafter sought the restoration of executive power. On numerous occasions, Cheney has echoed Nixon’s infamous “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” sentiment, both in speech and action.

Cheney was elected in to office in 1978, succeeding retiring Congressman Teno Roncalio in Wyoming’s only congressional district. He was re-elected five times, serving until 1989. Much of his time in congress was during the Reagan administration (1981–1989), and it was then that Dick developed his juxtaposed beliefs in a small federal government and the expansion of executive power.

Cheney’s voting record is somewhat contentious, and demonstrates his concerns about ‘big government’ and increasing the federal deficit. Most emblematic of this is his vote against the creation of the Department of Education in 1979. The bill was widely opposed by Republicans who valued decentralized education and, more broadly, states’ rights. Dick later explained that the motivation to vote against the bill was also economic; of course, central to the 1980s Republican platform were Reagan’s tax cuts and the wider experiment with neoliberalism, seen now to have increased the deficit and poised the nation for the current recession.

Witnessing and later investigating the Iran-Contra scandal (for the uninformed, see wikipedia), Cheney’s position was solidified; Reagan, as president, had the inherent power to make the arms-for-hostages arrangements and likewise fund the Contras with or without the approval of Congress. Cheney, along with David S. Addington (a reoccurring character) and few others, sponsored a minority report disapproving of the majority allegations the White House had overstepped legal boundaries: it held that congressional Democrats were trying to usurp executive power and placed the blame of the scandal with Congress for attempting to limit the president’s constitutionally appointed powers over foreign policy.

The minority report reduced the role of Congress in foreign policy to nearly nothing; it was a reaction to the perceived threat of an Imperial Congress, and a delayed defense against the claims of Nixon’s Imperial Presidency. Dick’s desire to expand the executive continued through his Vice Presidency: a topic for another post.

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Military service

Young, stoic and studly.

1964, aged 23

Dick came of age to enter US military service in 1959 when he turned 18 years old. He registered for the draft, graduated from Natrona County High School in Wyoming that year, didn’t enlist and later began studying at Yale University. In February 1962 he was classified as 1-A (available for service), but the Selective Service System was only conscripting older men at that time. In June that year he was asked to leave Yale and returned to Wyoming, enrolling in Casper Community College in 1963.

Cheney sought and received four draft deferments on the basis of continuing education, marked as 2-S. A timeline of relevant events:

  • 20 March 1963, aged 22. Applied for first draft deferment.
  • Later 1963. Transferred to University of Wyoming in Laramie.
  • 23 July 1963. Sought second draft deferment.
  • 7 August 1964, aged 23. Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed, escalating US involvement in Vietnam.
  • 29 August 1964. Married Lynne Vincent, high school sweetheart.
  • 14 October 1964. Applied for third student draft deferment.
  • May 1965, aged 24. Graduated university, changing his status to 1-A (though being married made conscription much less likely).
  • 1 November 1965. Obtained fourth 2-S draft deferment as a graduate student at University of Wyoming.

On 6 October 1965 the Selective Service System began drafting married men who had no children. On 28 July 1966 (9 months and 2 days later) Elizabeth Cheney was born. On 19 January 1966 when Lynne was 10 weeks pregnant, Dick applied for and later received the 3-A hardship exemption from service for men with dependents: his fifth and final legal draft dodge.

On his birthday on 30 January 1967 Dick turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.

The subject of his many deferments and exemption were only explored publicly in 1989 during the Congressional hearing to confirm him as H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. The Democrats didn’t raise the issue during the 2000 Bush v. Gore campaign because VP candidate Joseph Lieberman had likewise never served.

Dick reportedly told a Washington Post reporter during the 1989 trial, “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.” Always the patriot.

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Dick Cheney has no pulse

21 June 2004

Metaphorically speaking this may always have been the case, but now it’s literal: this July our Cheney was implanted with a mechanical heart that employs continuous blood flow, leaving him without a pulse.

This is only the most recent episode of heart-drama for Dick. He’s suffered five heart attacks:

  • 1978, aged 37. His first heart attack does not faze our Dick, who wins Congressional election that same year.
  • 1984, aged 43. The second likewise did little to slow Cheney down, and shortly after he became House Minority Whip.
  • 1988, aged 47. Attack resulted in quadruple bypass surgery. His heart-health stabilizes into the ’90s, and he stops having check-ups in 1996.
  • November 2000, aged 59. Just before election results, what Cheney calls “a very slight heart attack” resulted in a coronary stent to prop open a narrowed artery. In 2001 he undergoes urgent surgery to reopen the blocked artery.
  • February 2010, age 69. Most recent heart attack.

Following the latter episode, he’s experienced severe heart failure, leading to the mechanical pump he has today. This is to say nothing of the several other (though mostly elective) surgeries the former-VP has had in the past 10 years– that’s for another post.

These pumps are partial artificial hearts known as ventricular assist devices. Typically they are used only on patients with end-stage heart failure.

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