By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Where vice presidents traditionally struggled in vain just to get office space in the White House — Walter Mondale became the first, in 1976 — the secretive Cheney has spent the two years since 9/11 hiding in unknown rabbit holes, periodically popping out to say things designed to keep the public in a malleable state of anxiety. He said that the War on Terror could last 50 years and that it was “inevitable” there would be another huge attack on the U.S. He beat the drum for war with Iraq by deliberately overstating Saddam’s capacities and playing down contrary evidence from the intelligence agencies; then, when the WMDs weren’t found, he attacked those who dared question the administration’s inflated claims.
It has always been part of the Cheney myth that he is the acme of hard-nosed competence, whose reliable counsel and commitment to omert√†make him a trustworthy adviser. In fact, he’s been an unnerving vice president, whose record recalls that of Nixon’s corrupt old hatchet man Spiro Agnew. Cheney launched his own do-nothing anti-terrorism task force before 9/11 (thereby ignoring the existing proposals of the Hart-Rudman commission). He sparked a firestorm of bad PR when he sneered at energy conservation as mere “personal virtue,” then blamed environmentalists and bureaucrats for the California energy debacle (energy companies had actually been fixing prices). Back in 2002, he shuttled around the Middle East trying to secure support for the invasion of Iraq (nobody jumped aboard). Today, he’s still taking money from Halliburton, even as the U.S. government has given it a huge contract in Iraq.
Cheney’s blend of the mysterious and the sinister has turned him into something of a sick joke. Saturday Night Live’s Darrell Hammond plays him as a maniac prone to bursts of glee, while Eminem pretended to electrocute him with a defibrillator in his nose-thumbing video “Without Me.” In a recent Village Voiceparody casting Hillary Clinton as Harry Potter, Cheney turned up as a giant serpent who lived in the Hogwarts drainage pipes — “his voice sounded like an iceberg in a sewer.”
None of this would be problematic were the economy flush and Iraq going splendidly. But they aren’t, and Bush’s ideal running mate is no longer the unlikable Cheney but (to borrow his father’s locution) a kinder, gentler conservative attuned to the daily problems of ordinary Americans. (Is there a single nationally known Republican who actually fits this description? I don’t ask this facetiously.) I’m well aware that the White House has already announced that Cheney will be on the ticket again next year, and naturally the president won’t overtly can his veep or blame him for the things that have gone wrong in Iraq. But a year’s a long time, and Cheney’s no longer a public asset. So don’t be surprised if the president grows too worried about his good friend’s heart condition to let him risk his life by running again.
In last week’s cliffhanger episode of The O.C., the most deliriously enjoyable trash TV show in years, our teen heroes bomb down to Tijuana, where Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) fills her skinny body with too many pills. Will she still be breathing once the show resumes after Fox’s World Series hiatus? Does anyone care? Me, I’m hoping the writers find a bigger role for Marissa’s social-climbing mother, Julie (the great Melinda Clarke), and her slippery-weak husband, Jimmy (Tate Donovan’s finest hour). As for Marissa, maybe series creator Josh Schwartz or producer Doug Liman will finally grasp that their sulky heroine isn’t merely a drip but a passive-aggressive psycho. I know she’s Ryan’s love interest and all, but this chick would be instantly thrown off any island where my friends and I have a vote.