The Breakfast Table

Cheney Breaks My Heart

Dear Will,

My heart’s broken. Dick Cheney is assuredly a grown-up, but not an exciting one. He’s the sort of neighbor you don’t really notice–until he complains to the police that your party is too loud.

It’s no fun being in the party that wanted Colin Powell, the Hero of Desert Storm, but got Dick Cheney–the Head Bureaucrat in Charge of Procurement and Support Mechanisms Relating Directly but Not Exclusively to the Execution and Successful Completion of Operation Desert Storm. Now, Jack Danforth is interesting. He’s a lawyer, former senator, special counsel, Episcopal priest, and heir to the Ralston Purina fortune. This guy is personally responsible for litigation, legislation, investigation, transubstantiation, and Puppy Chow. He’s my man.

As for George Bush’s intelligence, I’m not certain he’s as stupid as the press fears. Remember, these are many of the same people who last summer proclaimed Bill Bradley a sure-fire winner in the Democratic primary. Why? Because, they said, he’s so-o-o-o-o smart. Perhaps. But if he was smart, he didn’t strain a single synapse for the benefit of his constituency. In fact, Bradley probably will go down in New Jersey history as the senator who made Frank Lautenberg look like a heavyweight. In the Senate, he lacked creativity, drive, focus, and charisma–qualities he seemed to acquire magically in the pages of Time magazine and Newsweek.

Many of the people calling Bush an imbecile also publish Bill Clinton’s Martha’s Vineyard reading lists every summer. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that, except that they expect us to believe he reads all those books–even though they watch him all day playing golf, running around on the beach, signing bills, raising money, sailing, and going to celebrity clambakes until the wee hours. When does he find time to read? And who takes Jonathan Kozol to the beach? Those reading lists are the public-relations equivalent of Alec Baldwin’s glasses; we don’t know if he needs them or not, but they do make him look like an intellectual.

Look, I’m not saying Bush is a brain surgeon, and I really do appreciate some of the doubts expressed by people who don’t have a partisan ax to grind. I just find it hard to believe he’s the dumbest guy in the room–especially when he’s sitting across from Sam Donaldson. Besides, I like presidents who run the country competently. I’m not scandalized by people who think Joseph Conrad was the fat guy who played Cannon. If Bush can articulate a worthy agenda, select a solid Cabinet, and manage the federal government, he’ll make a fine president. If not, he’ll make a fine Jimmy Carter.



P.S.: I’m not sure my heart is much better than Cheney’s. I have high cholesterol. My liver transforms celery into cheese and sends it straight to my aorta.