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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The president and the former V.P., in a flash

Their faces tell the story.

Look at the newspaper photographs published last week of Dick Cheney and Barack Obama. It is said, and I believe it to be true, that eventually we all begin to look like the people we are. It is as if character, conscience and good will seep up and out until they are etched on our faces. Indeed, Cheney looks like the devil’s advocate, as if dark forces fuel the sound and fury of his venal public denouncements of the president.

Have you read his mean-spirited op-ed piece about this administration and the unfolding tragedy in Iraq? What motivates a man to keep spewing venom when he is years out of office and sidelined by such serious illness that they had to cut out his heart and replace it with another?

After five heart attacks (the first when he was 37), stents, bypass surgery, a heart pump and finally a heart transplant, the former vice president looks remarkably healthy at age 73. Should we infer a life well lived or a complete lack of conscience?

Near-death experiences have not chastened him. He looks back on the lead-up to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, still fully convinced that it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that he and his team manipulated the facts of Saddam Hussein’s threat to America, despite the fact that the alleged weapons of mass destruction never existed.

I see former President George W. Bush as a lightweight leader who followed Cheney’s advice and set us on a catastrophic path in Iraq. I see Cheney as the evildoer in 43’s administration, the key man who vigorously pushed for war, spread false information and never questioned the loss of more than 4,000 American soldiers in the ensuing nine-year bloodbath.

As E.J. Dionne wrote in The Washington Post on Friday, “The infinitely valuable Yiddish word chutzpah is defined as ‘shameless audacity’ or ‘impudence.’ It’s singularly appropriate for the astonishing op-ed from . . . Cheney and his daughter published in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. It’s not every day that a leader of the previous administration suggests that the current president is a ‘fool’ and accuses him of intentionally weakening the United States . . .

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