Of all the horrible moments we have suffered as a nation on and since 9/11, the most gruesome have been the annual appearances of VP Dick "Dick" Cheney on Meet the Press.
The most secretive, reclusive and unfortunately powerful vice-president in U.S. history prefers friendly venues. He had made many more appearances on King Wing-Nut Rush Limbaugh’s show than on any other. Then there is always the occasional drop in for Scotch and massages at Fox News. There is no limit to chummy outlets for the Real President in the "new" (read: right-wing) media.
When the Dark Prince decides to show up for questioning by a real journalist – always as part of some administration scare-monger PR campaign, of which there have been dozens – he usually slips into his too-comfy chair on the set of Meet the Press to exchange somber tones with Tim Russert. The Cheney Chair on MTP has been the scene of many of the more memorable Veep performances in the propaganda war, including wild claims, eventual recantations and denials that he ever made the previous statements.
Russert is one of our best Sunday talking-head facilitators (George Stephanopoulos has grown into a more effective and comfortable voice at challenging spin, George Will notwithstanding), but he has two modes of interrogation – one for Democrats and one for Republicans. Administration flacks are allowed to spew any old lie, with little follow up. Democrats are submitted to bright lights in the face and a seemingly endless library of pull-quotes, projected and read on the screen, to show their obvious (to Russert) hypocrisy and deviousness. "Were you lying then or now?" is the usual gist of things for the Dems, while the Bush flunkies, like robotron Condi Rice, get a nice smile and cute greetings for her dog as a send-off.
It’s hard to say where Cheney or Russert are going into tomorrow’s coffee-and-doughnuts session. Cheney’s useful stooge, the empty-suited Junior Bush, just spent the past week admitting breaking international law with the CIA Black Sites and insisting that Congress rubber-stamp the very process for trying terror suspects that the Supreme Court just invalidated. We can expect more smearing of Bush critics as appeasers and worse, delivered in Cheney’s patented if-I-project-my-voice-I-might-have-a-heart-attack delivery style.
Whether Russert will be able to pierce the veil of Cheney’s sanctimony is always the attraction in these appearances. It always depends on whether Russert has any interest or stomach for the fight. Sometimes he starts out ready for a fight, pull-quotes at the ready. Cheney always is able to brush anything off as mere piffle, and, by the way, why don’t you understand we are at war, etc. He presents himself as entirely reasonable, like he just another egghead in a Cato Institute panel on C-Span. For some reason, this facade usually puts Russert to sleep, and the followup questions fall by the wayside like so much irrelevant and unnecessary squabbling.
In the end, Cheney always prevails unscathed. After tomorrow, he’ll be able to claim again that he entered the MSM’s heathen’s den, "they" didn’t get it (again), and he can run to Limbaugh’s show again next week to clean up any messes he left behind and bask in his own impossible glory.
One hopes that Russert has had enough of being lied-to and manipulated through the years and comes out swinging. If I were him, after all these years of being the good lap dog and getting kicked in the teeth in return, I’d create a ruckus. Confront him with a pull-quote demonstrating one of his lies (the one about Atta meeting Iraqi intelligence in Egypt will do), and bang his shoe on the table until he apologizes. Just cut loose. Get in his face. Announce that he is quitting after today’s show, but not until he gets some answers. Reach across the table and grab the little war-wimp by his collar. "Confess, you bastard! Con-FESS!!"
I suppose this is too much to ask for. But I’m asking for it anyway.