Dick Cheney's Fear
By Richard Hétu
Cyberpresse in collaboration with La Presse
Sunday 11 July 2004
John Kerry announces his choice of running mate: John Edwards. For two days, the media get carried away, present attractive images of the Democratic candidates surrounded by their families. The third day, Dick Cheney enters the scene.
As if by accident, that day he visits the new offices of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who will hold a press conference in his presence. The subject? The risk of an al-Qaeda attack before the presidential election November 2.
The media drop Edwards' sunny face to show Cheney's somber visage, that of the most powerful and controversial Vice-President in American history.
The contrast does not flatter Cheney. And some Republicans worry about it, including former New York Senator Al D'Amato, who just advised George W. Bush to change running mate (he suggests Colin Powell as a replacement). The President will probably not do anything of the kind and Cheney's performance over the last four years will become one of the major themes of the presidential campaign.
For the Democrats, the Vice-President is a choice target. His responsibility for the war in Iraq is major. His popularity quotient is anemic. Some accuse him of exaggerating the threat Saddam Hussein's regime represented and his suppositious arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
"I think the Vice-President was one of those who unfortunately exaggerated the most," John Kerry said Thursday on Larry King Live on CNN. "He made statements that have been shown to be wrong. I believe Mr. Cheney is one of those pure hard ideologues..."
In "Plan of Attack", his best-seller on the preparations for the war in Iraq, the journalist Bob Woodward describes Cheney as "in a fever" over Saddam Hussein and he compares the Vice-President's behavior to a steam-roller.
Did Cheney try to influence the CIA analysts or to pressure them to modify their conclusions on the presence of WMD in Iraq? In a report published Friday, a majority Republican Congressional Committee responded directly to this question: "The committee has not discovered any proof that the Vice-President's (Dick Cheney's) visits to CIA headquarters were attempts to put pressure on the analysts or were perceived as such by the latter."
Nonetheless, in the weeks that followed Cheney's visits, the CIA ended up endorsing the Vice-President's most alarmist statements about Saddam Hussein's arsenal.
Did Cheney want the Iraq war in order to enrich his former company, Halliburton, which obtained amazing contracts for reconstruction of the occupied country? The Democrats have already asked this question in the Senate. Incidentally, it was one of them, Vermont Senator Pat Leahy, the Vice-President answered the other day with: "Go fuck yourself."
The obscenity is surprising in the mouth of a Vice-President of the United States, but it's in the air these days. In New York, the young and the not-so-young are wearing t-shirts that read: "Fuck Bush". During a fund-raising show for John Kerry, the comedienne Whoopi Goldberg made many puns on the president's family name, which in English may evoke female genitalia.
The Republicans denounced Goldberg's and others' vulgarities, forgetting the example set by their Vice- President.
There are times when Cheney displays a dazzling candor. At the beginning of the year, a USA Today reporter questioned him about his image, which is that of a Machiavelli working in the shadows. Cheney answered: "What's bad about my image?... Am I a toxic cloud? Am I a malignant genius in the background whom nobody sees come out of his cave? That's a good way to work, in fact."
The voters don't seem to share that opinion. According to a poll published by Time magazine on Friday, John Edwards would make a better president (47% of respondents) than Cheney (38%).
According to another poll taken July 8 and 9, the Kerry-Edwards ticket gets 51% of eligible votes versus 45% for the present White House occupants. This poll will be published in tomorrow's Newsweek.
Would Cheney try to stop the ascent of the Democratic ticket by brandishing the risk of an attack? In his presence last Thursday, the Homeland Security Secretary gave no information to back-up his statements and he did not raise the terrorist alert level, which has stayed "yellow".
Would the Vice-President participate in another manipulation? With each alert, the Bush Administration implicitly allows it to be understood that Osama bin Laden wants John Kerry to win, that the terrorists want to repeat their Madrid coup.
In the absence of charm, Cheney always has fear.
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.