Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

November 2, 2005

Scooter used to be Cheney's Cheney.

Now we've got Cheney's Cheney's Cheney.

This is not an improvement.

Once Scooter left, many people, including a lot of alarmed conservatives and moderate Republicans, were hoping that W. and Vice would throw open some White House windows to let the air and sun in, and climb out of that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.

But they like it in their paranoid paradise. One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him - and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration - should be jettisoned.

This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib.

Unlike Scooter, this lone-wolf lawyer doesn't reach out to journalists, even to use them as conduits or covers; he makes his boss look gregarious. He routinely declines to be interviewed or photographed.

Vice also appointed John Hannah as his national security adviser, a title also held by Scooter. Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah often battled with the C.I.A. and State as the cabal pushed the case that Saddam was a direct threat to America, sabotaging Colin Powell's reputation when it "helped" with his U.N. speech. Mr. Hannah was the contact for Ahmad Chalabi, who went around the C.I.A. to feed Vice's office the baloney intel and rosy scenarios that suckered the U.S. into war.

Mr. Addington has done his best to crown King Cheney. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Mr. Addington pushed an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that "favors an extraordinarily powerful president." He would go "through every page of the federal budget in search of riders that could restrict executive authority."

"He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects," Mr. Milbank wrote. "He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy." And he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission.

The National Journal pointed out that Scooter had talked to Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah about Joseph Wilson and his C.I.A. wife when he was seeking more information to discredit them in the press. Mr. Addington, the story said, "was deeply immersed" in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism about warped W.M.D. intelligence, and attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Mr. Wilson.

"Further," the magazine said, "Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq."

Mr. Addington may as well have turned the documents over for safekeeping to Pat Roberts, because, as it turned out, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee didn't want to investigate anything.

Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet and shut down the Senate.

Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark. Childish, perhaps, but effective. Republicans screamed but grudgingly agreed to take a look at where the investigation stands. But even if the Senate starts investigating again, Mr. Addington, now promoted, will have even more authority not to cooperate.

It's the Cheney chain of command.