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Current Affairs

Dick, being (a) Dick

William Rivers Pitt writes: "I was absolutely savaged by an unexpected emotional detonation on Thursday. Every rough emotion I am capable of experiencing - anger, fear, sorrow, rage, bitterness, despair, loathing, astonishment, woe, regret, horror, fury - erupted within me at the same time that day. I spent hours in the aftermath trying to type an accurate description of what had happened to me and why, but I failed. For the first time in a long, long while, I was completely unable to write. What could have been powerful enough to huff and puff and blow my house down? What manner of mind bomb could hurl me so far off kilter that I was incapable of explaining it on paper? It was, of course, Dick Cheney."

The news story that started it all was just another report on Dick being Dick, doing his Dick thing the way Dick always does. If they ever hold a contest to decide which politician has the most appropriate first name, you should bet the farm, the barn, the house, the cow, every crop, every truck, and throw in all your shoes besides, on Dick winning in a walk. Dick would win in such a dominant fashion that the NBA Finals would appear competitive by comparison.

    It was Dick, and he got me on Thursday but good. You've probably heard the news story by now, and maybe you reacted to it like I did.

    The National Archives is basically the federal filing cabinet where all governmental paper records are stored and organized. The Archives is an invaluable repository of our governmental history. These documents are publicly available, and are a giant treasure trove for historians, biographers or anyone who loves to feel a bit of history between their fingers.

    So the Archives people had asked Cheney's office for his papers, because it was time to do so, because doing so is the law, because those papers are the property of the people. We pay for their printing and we pay for their storage, and the return on our investment can be found in the History/Biography/Politics section of any bookstore in America.

    Dick turned the National Archives down flat, and this is what destroyed me on Thursday. Not only did he turn them down, his office wrote - actually wrote on paper in a letter to the Archives - their amazing explanation for refusing to hand over the papers. If you've not heard this, brace yourself.

    Dick had the fire-breathing gall, the awe-inspiring temerity, the light-bending arrogance to put forth the argument - which was actually written down - that the office of The vice president of the United States is not actually part of the executive branch of the federal government, and is therefore not required to give any papers to anyone, ever.

    Breathe. Breathe. It'll pass.

    I could use a thousand words to describe what this thing did as it ripped through me. I tried all Thursday to do it, and failed time and again. I have finally fixed upon the one word that truly explains how I felt once the shock had passed.

    I was offended.

    These people offend me on a daily basis, but for some reason, this was too much. The vice president of the United States actually defended his insane lust for secrecy by claiming, with his bare face hanging out, that the OVP is not a part of the executive branch. Cheney is covered by executive privilege, and he is a member of the presidential cabinet, yet somehow his office is not part of the executive branch.

    It offended me. It offended my patriotism, it was a rank insult to anyone who took grade-school civics, and it was pure horrid hubris-flecked power run amok, power so deranged that it is dangerous to every American. I have no context to place this in, but maybe context isn't required. Lawyers use a Latin phrase, "Res ipsa loquitor," which means "The thing speaks for itself." That's pretty much exactly correct, as far as this mayhem is concerned.

    Cheney's argument, by the way, is prima facie cause for his removal from office. Simply, his office exists in the first place because all presidents are mortal, and so require a waiting replacement should the need arise. It sounded on Thursday like Dick pretty much quit his constitutionally-mandated next-in-line post. If he's not doing that job anymore, he should go home.

    This is a personal matter now.

    Somehow, another news story about Cheney just being Cheney while doing his Cheney thing caused a tectonic shift. Encompassing the awesome, towering, astonishing, awful, brutal, sick, deadly thing that is alive within the man; a thing that once was mistaken for mere arrogance, was enough to get me thinking in Biblical terms. There are stories in the Book describing people confronted by the very face of God. They tend to have a common theme: The moment they actually see I Am Who I Am, they wind up getting clobbered for their trouble.

    I saw the true face of Dick Cheney on Thursday, undistilled Cheney: The core essence and clearest example of what imperils us all. The monstrous things perfectly revealed by Cheney's actions left me writhing like Saul in the dust of that Damascus road. It was holy, in a weird way, because it brought about a profound experience that hurt even as it cleansed. I now know that a glimpse of evil can also be a holy and spiritual moment, if you make it through the aftermath. The difference, perhaps, is that anyone who sees God is blinded by the sight. I got a look at evil walking like a man, and I see so much now that I didn't see before.

    I actually owe Cheney a bit of gratitude. I was worried that his actions, and the actions of his crew, had abused the fabric of my capacity for surprise beyond the limit, had worn down one of the better human emotions by just being Cheney. I was wrong. He proved I am still capable of awe.

    William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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