June 27, 2007

"Guiding the Ship of State" reading from the Exxon Valdez manual

I remember talking to one of my Texas friends about the Bush administration and being stunned that he (at that time) didn't know the name Karl Rove. In retrospect, ignorance is easier, and I suspect that a lot of Americans are glad to not know anything about Dick Cheney. I kind of wish I didn't know as much.

The WaPo series part three and four are online and I made the mistake of reading them this morning. As if learning in the first two how this VP made torture and cruelty American policy wasn't bad enough, now we get to see how he managed domestic policy. Couple of quotes:
He managed to overcome the president's "compassionate conservative" resistance to multiple breaks for the wealthy.
First line to actually make the President look better, since he actually balked at more tax cuts for the wealthy. We knew that from Paul O'Neill, but see it here again. Of course, Bush is ultimately too weak or disconnected to stop Cheney from doing what he wants.
"My impression is that the president thinks that the Reagan style of leadership is best -- guiding the ship of state from high up on the mast," said former White House lawyer Bradford A. Berenson. "It seems to me that the vice president is more willing to get down in the wheelhouse below the decks."
Too bad that the President can't guide. Or steer. Or anything.

We see that with the discussions of how each approaches complext information. According to insiders, Cheney is a bit of a wonk and nerd, poring over charts and data, reading a lot. He evidently enjoys economics (as long as it is supply side) and briefings with him are detailed and complex. Not so with the Prez.
"With the president it was much shorter. It's 'Marty, what do you think of where we stand today?'" said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economics professor and the president and chief executive of the National Bureau of Economic Research. "It's also a less technical presentation."
That is how a Harvard economics professor calls the President dumb. Take notes.

Part 4 includes even more chilling (for me) discussions of how he intervened in the Interior Department to override attempts to save Klamath salmon. All his buddies say that Cheney is driven by principle, but his principle appears to be "pro-business" all the way. Which is why he drove Christine Whitman out of her EPA position:
She wanted to work a political trade with industry -- eliminating the New Source Review in return for support of Bush's 2002 "Clear Skies" initiative, which outlined a market-based approach to reducing emissions over time. But Clear Skies went nowhere. "There was never any follow-up," Whitman said, and moreover, there was no reason for industry to embrace even a modest pollution control initiative when the vice president was pushing to change the rules for nothing.
I have said this before too, but I was always impressed with Clinton in that discussions like this usually left both sides a little unhappy and not quite getting what they wanted. With Bush business never complains. They always get what they want, even and especially if it is expensive. Never mind that it is often chemical companies successfully lobbying to avoid expensive security provisions, or power plants polluting almost at will, they know they have a patsy in the White House.

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