Saturday, May 16, 2009
For the Record...
That Nazi Devil Vader Blofeld person.
LOOK FOR CHENEY. Okay. We at InstaPunk are officially embarrassed. The truth is, in all our years of blogging, we have never formally and directly posted a post expressly designed to defend Vice-President Dick Cheney. And it's even worse than that. Because most of us have always liked and admired Dick Cheney. But we were relatively silent anyway. We never wrote an essay like the one that appeared today, "Three Cheers for Dick Cheney," written by a confessed liberal critic of Cheney on key issues, which included these specific insights and conclusions (among others -- uh, yeah, read the whole thing) in defense of the former Vice President:
At about 10 a.m. that awful morning, the vice president entered a secure White House shelter. He was told that the Air Force was attempting to scramble planes to defend the air space over Washington. That raised another question, one pertaining to the missing plane White House officials assumed was heading their way: Who was going to authorize shooting it down? Cheney, with Bush's concurrence, gave such an order. Minutes later, officials in the shelter learned a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. In the unemotional prose of the report, the 9/11 commission noted: "Those in the shelter wondered if the aircraft had been shot down pursuant to this authorization."
At 10:39 a.m., Cheney spoke with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It's clear from the transcript of that call that Cheney believes he may have authorized the shooting down of an American passenger jet. Rumsfeld seems skeptical, but he doesn't really know either. I'm not sure "changed" is the right word, but I believe that in those 40 minutes--with the nation under attack, with Cheney not knowing if his daughters and grandchildren are safe, with his impression that he's directed a very hard order to some flyboy in the U.S. Air Force, possibly killing another 200 Americans--that Dick Cheney resolved to do whatever it would take to protect this country, regardless of the cost to his reputation or popularity. I respect him for that, and I empathize with him....
[W]e definitely do damage to ourselves when we substitute political debate with name-calling and ad-hominem attacks. I think Dick Cheney is wrong on important matters. I also think he is a patriot. And I hate to think that we have lost the ability to hold two such opinions in our heads at one time.
When I read this piece, I did a search of this site (which you can do, too, by typing cheney with no diacriticals into the Instapunk search function on this page). He's mentioned a bunch of times, but only twice in what you might consider a truly supportive advocacy way, albeit indirectly and humorously. (Here. And here.) So why were we so shy about backing him explicitly and non-satirically?
Well, there are two interesting points I discovered by asking this self-incriminating question. I'd like to explain them to you because they relate both to our last post and to the decisions sites like ours make, sometimes unconsciously, about how we fight for what we believe. Which lead us sometimes into errors of omission and commission. Which this was.
Make no mistake. I'm eating crow here. I do admire Dick Cheney. Despite his Darth Vader approach to public relations. Despite his five draft deferments and two DWIs. As I get older myself, I'm more and more often reminded of an offhand remark by F. Scott Fitzgerald that (forgive my inaccurate paraphrase) "physical bravery is largely a matter of being in shape." I myself can no longer comprehend some of the physical risks I took as a young man. I know better than to say I was simply stupid and unimaginative then. I was physically braver. I always had a vivid sensory imagination of the feel, the pain, of broken bones and smashed internal organs. I just prized the joy of defying those outcomes more than I feared them. Now I feel differently. I place more importance on simply being with my family and friends, I am more disposed to savor the middle feelings between ennui and adrenalin highs. Not dying has become a value -- not unalloyed, not absolute by any means -- but greater than I would ever have conceived as a teen or twenty-something. I don't need to go 130 mph on a back road to experience the sensory rush I get from when my infant granddaughter smiles at me and grabs my little finger with her whole hand. And don't think that I have forgotten 130 mph. I haven't. It was great. But it was always a placeholder, an incredibly strong substitute -- even a practice -- emotion for the strong emotions you experience only by living long enough to start living not through machines and athletic feats but through other people and other lives.
Sorry for the digression. But physical bravery is a much bigger deal for old men than young ones. I don't care how many draft deferments Dick Cheney received. He's a very brave man. His heart is somewhere between forty and sixty percent dead. He's known this for a long time. He has nevertheless continuously exposed himself to stress that would kill much healthier men, and he has done it without the single most powerful incentive any man can have for accepting the back-handed honor of the vice-presidency of the United States. He never intended to run for President. And he didn't. Now, when he could be luxuriating in the last-years comfort of a loving family, he comes back again to do battle in the political arena, where he can legitimately expect nothing but abuse, contempt, and ridicule. Why? Because he's a patriot. Because he believes in what he advocates. Period.
Why have we never given him his due before? We have a good excuse and a less good truth to share. The excuse, which is valid, is that the leftists were so determined to portray him as the real president of the United States, manipulating the idiot puppet Bush, that to make him the center of any post was to authenticate the false notion that he was something more than a particularly hard-working and involved vice-president. We didn't want to seem to be exalting the lie that President Bush was not the man truly in charge.
The less good truth is that the left succeeded so spectacularly in demonizing Cheney that it was simply easier, even for those of us who trafficked in satire, to forfeit that game. They ran the score up so unfairly but amazingly high against him that defending him in any but the most cursory way felt like a self-destructive wound to our own credibility. That one's on us. We should have defended him personally, just as we defended Bush for quite similar reasons. We chose not to, because we were being more political than honorable. A bitter pill to swallow, especially when it's administered by a liberal journalist who doesn't agree, as we do, with most of Cheney's positions over the years.
As I said. We're embarrassed.
But there's also an interesting sidelight to this mea culpa. When I did the InstaPunk search of posts that mentioned Cheney, I discovered a slew of entries that don't seem to turn up on other searches, many of them as snide and funny as the best ever published here. Entries I'd completely forgotten. Maybe that's how the subconscious fights back. The satirical urge pushes through rational inhibitions and can't help rattling cages even prudence wants to keep locked down.
Well, think about it. I know I am. Cheers for Dick Cheney.