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Saturday, February 18, 2006

This Week in Cheney -- Live By the Polls, Die By the Polls

Now that we've had a bit of a lull in the Cheney cycle (not that I believe for a minute that it is anything more than a lull -- this story is not over) it is perhaps appropriate to take stock of what exactly happened this week.

When the Lords of the BushCo. junta wake up each morning they care about one thing: their polls. Everything is seen through the lens of their polling numbers, and not because George Bush wants to be liked. When their polls are strong they can hold their ranks in line and push through their agendas. When their polls are weak it is much more likely that individual members of congress will either a) become more responsive to the needs of their constituents or b) decide that this rapid weakening of their own power is not a good thing.

When the polls are bad people start to break ranks. And now that the Hammer is seriously wounded, their ability to hold off investigations into scandals that could wound them in the fall elections is in jeopardy. When Dubya was jury tampering in his own softball interview with Brit Hume, he said of DeLay:
Well, I like him. When he's over there, we get our votes through the House. We had a remarkable success of legislative victories. A remarkable string of legislative victories.
Many people lamented this week that the "gossip" of the Cheney shooting eclipsed and obscured the more important matter of the Thursday vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee as to whether they would investigate the illegal NSA wiretaps. Several bloggers announced that the Cheney matter was merely inconsequential and quite beneath them; others argued that Cheney would undoubtedly survive and so covering the matter was useless. In doing so they really just announced their profound lack of insight into the way the administration operates.

Early in the week, while Whittington was in the hospital having his heart attack, Cheney was up on the hill trying to strongarm members of the Intelligence Committee into killing the investigation altogether, according to the Washington Post. And Pat Roberts certainly seemed to think he had the votes to do so, at least initially. Yet when the time came, Roberts tabled the vote -- an indication that Cheney had been unsuccessful and Roberts couldn't count on the Republicans on his committee to hang together and vote the way the Administration obviously wanted them to. It was a clear sign that Cheney was extremely weakened by what was going on and couldn't overcome whatever reluctance members of his own party had in the matter. This was something that we probably could not have accomplished if we'd shifted gears and written all the letters and faxes they could eat.

What do you do when openings like that arise? You hit them with everything you can lay your hands on, because you never know which stories are going to spread. I'm really proud that several of those that took root here in the comments -- Puppethead's comments about Cheney's canned hunts, and John Casper and rusty's discovery of the scrubbed MSNBC drinking references to name only two -- made their way into the much larger Cheney narrative that began to pervade scandal-addicted cable news. The savvy Arianna, who has been down this road a time or two, did likewise with her blog. The derision devoted by the wingnuts to these efforts only serves as a tribute to their effectiveness.

Opportunities don't necessarily arise in the tasteful and carefully framed manner you want them to. Instead you have to seize them when they come up, no matter what the shape, size and smell, especially if you're the minority party and your leadership is in disarray. The amount of damage done to BushCo. this week in the Cheney shooting remains to be seen in -- yes, you got it -- the polls. Hopefully there will be enough lasting damage to allow the wiretap hearings and other investigations to squeeze through in a way that wouldn't have been possible before BushCo. took such a direct hit; at the very least it may keep them distracted, much like Monicagate did Clinton, such that they can't get anything done and must devote all their energies to dealing with it.

When you've got people like Chuck Hagel saying...
"“If [Dick Cheney] had been in the military, he would have learned gun safety." know there's a lot of long-simmering resentment against Cheney that may be ready to come to the fore now and blossom. It certainly is a lovely thought.

Update: As Glenn Greenwald notes, the NYT is reporting that Pat Roberts is locking horns with BushCo. over the DeWine proposal to simply exempt the whole warrantless NSA program from the requirements of FISA. Hard to now what is motivating this, but noteworthy nonetheless.

(graphic by Dark Black)