The hot-off-the-presses announcement that the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed testimony about the Bush warrantless wiretapping program, and asked for a massive document dump, isn’t just significant for its surface reasons. In my view, it’s the latest signal that the reign of Dick Cheney as shadow president is coming to an end.
One of the individuals Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy is calling on the carpet is Cheney chief of staff David Addington. Addington, for those who don’t know, is Cheney’s consigliere, crafting the nuances of Cheney’s most favored initiatives, from illegal surveillance to torturing prisoners. He’s been called “the most powerful man in Washington you’ve never heard of.” Currently he’s known for the increasingly absurd and bizarre explanations as to why Cheney is somehow simultaneously part of the executive branch, yet not part of it. Addington has been Cheney’s right hand since the beginning, pushing his initiatives to classify everything related to the Office of the Vice-President and bury the entire Bush regime in shrouds of secrecy.
So if he’s getting summoned, you know it’s serious. Addington is no pawn to be sacrificed like Scooter Libby, but as Cheney has proven time and again, he will do all he can to preserve his own power at the expense of people he formerly called allies. But at the same time, Addington’s relationship to Cheney is much like Karl Rove’s is (was?) to Bush–they know so much about where the bodies are buried that they may just be too dangerous to let dangle on the hook. Then again, I’m sure that’s what Libby thought too.
This move signifies a play in a larger gambit to me. Why is it suddenly getting the mainstream’s attention that Cheney claimed for himself distinct privilege in the administration? The progressive blogosphere knew about this for months, but couldn’t get anyone to bite. Indeed, what made a story that was boring in February so interesting in June?
And what about the Washington Post’s sudden publication of “The Angler,” a massive four-part series detailing in grisly depth the arrogance, hubris, and brutal authoritarian incompetence of ol’ Deadeye Dick? There’s no way the Post would set this ball rolling now unless something bigger was coming down the pike. Not unless there were insiders pushing to get this information out there and using the Post as the mouthpiece. I’m not disputing the excellent work of Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, but a even a journalistic neophyte like myself knows you don’t let something like this fly unless you’re sure there’s protection–or that the target is too wounded to fight back.
So what happens next? Will Cheney suddenly step down due to unspecified health problems? Will he agree to resign, much like his idol Nixon, in order to avoid impeachment? Will he barricade himself in the West Wing armed with his trusty shotgun? Whatever he chooses to do, he has already secured his place in history–by surpassing his idol’s dubious honor as one of the most destructive and anti-democratic forces ever to hold power in our country’s modern history. Any ending will probably be inadequate to sufficiently encompass all the shady dealings and dirty deeds of the Cheney adminstration.
But an ending is still needed, nonetheless.
ADDENDUM: WOW. Commenter Djerrid just provided a link to what may be the Grand Unified Field Theory of GOP conspiracies. This would totally explain why Fred Thompson’s been so slow to actually begin his campaign–he’s auditioning for Cheney’s spot, not Bush’s, and thus will be able to add incumbency to his resume of being a lobbyist and “Law & Order” cast member. But given how the conservative press swoons over his Reaganesque profile, I can’t see this being out of the realm of possibility at all.