The Cheney Intimidation Factor

23:42 Sun 27 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:07 28 Jan 2009
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[A]t one point, two of the top lawyers from the Justice Department developed this system of talking in codes to each other because they thought they might be being wiretapped. [...] By their own government. They felt like they might be kind of weirdly in physical danger. They were actually scared to stand up to Vice President Cheney.
Jane Mayer talking to Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal, 25 July 2008

This says a couple of things. First, that the Bush/Cheney White House is/was just as insane and screwed up as people thought, if not worse. I mean, when top lawyers at the DoJ start thinking that they might be in physical danger, possibly from the Vice President, things are pretty damn bad.

Second, it follows that Cheney really is a very scary, sinister figure. It’s one thing for outsiders to think he’s weird and frightening, given that we see him only via various mediating forms, but for people who actually work with him to react that way says something else. Not necessarily surprising, but it’s definitely disturbing.

Third, it illustrates the power of fear and intimidation, and how adept Cheney is at using them. The likelihood of physical harm coming to those lawyers due to their defying Cheney must have been quite small. Not tiny, but small, even accounting for the fact that I might not be paranoid enough in making that estimation. These are by definition extremely well-connected people, and I don’t think that even this Administration thought it could start disappearing its own DoJ lawyers without very serious repercussions. However, Cheney apparently made these people think either a) he could make it happen without suffering real consequences or b) he might suffer the consequences but was too nuts to care. Or both. By making them think that, he effectively blunted their resistance so that they were quiet and acted only by talking to reporters in secret, ensuring that Cheney had a mostly free hand at the time (and Cheney probably figures, with probability on his side, that there will be no political will to really come after him once he’s out of office).

ThinkProgress posted on this issue, and included a YouTube excerpt of the interview.

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