Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Did Cheney Just “Come Out” as a Racist?

The 24/7 Dick Cheney interview tour keeps defending torture–and keeps giving evidence that could be used in future trials against him and his regime.  The blogs are abuzz because he said Sunday that Bush authorized the torture programs.  When will he be confronted with these claims under oath in a court of law?  Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who has enormous contacts deep in the intelligence community and has broken many a govt. conspiracy  over the years, has claimed that high-ranking intelligence officials have told him of a Bush-era “assassination squad” that ran directly out of Cheney’s office.  I wish he could get them to go on the record, publicly.  Could others in Congress or the Dept. of Justice know of these squads? Do they fear that they still exist and still report to Cheney? Is this why Obama and Congress are so reluctant to hold the Bush admin.  accountable?  Did even G.W. Bush keep going along with Cheney out of fear for his life? I don’t know. I do know we ordinary Americans have to keep pushing for real investigations and prosecutions by a special prosecutor.

But Cheney’s bold defense of his lawbreaking is not new. What was new Sunday was that he seemed to “come out” as a racist.  We have long known of the deepseated ill will between Dick Cheney and former Sec. of State Colin Powell, dating back to before Powell was Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Personal animosity between two people of different races is no proof of racial prejudice.  I don’t like RNC Chair Michael Steele (though he’s entertaining), but it has nothing to do with his race. If he knew me, I assume he’d dislike me, too, but I wouldn’t attribute it to any anti-white feelings on his part.  Sometimes folks just clash.  So, Cheney’s Sunday claim that the GOP should stick with Rush Limbaugh as its voice and reject that of Powell need not, on its face, be racist.

But. . . .

Limbaugh has claimed repeatedly that Powell, perhaps one of the most widely respected Republicans beyond GOP circles, had no other reason for his endorsement of Barack Obama for Pres. last Fall than race.  He repeated that recently and Powell told Republicans that Rush is a poison to their party.  So, in endorsing Rush over Powell–and questioning whether Powell was still a Republican–was Cheney also claiming that Powell had been motivated strictly by race in his late Fall endorsement of Obama? (Remember, grassroots Republicans tried to draft Powell as a presidential candidate in 2000.  Had they succeeded, they might have had a black presidential nominee BEFORE the Democrats.  Among young Republicans and conservative independents I know, Powell is their favorite Republican.)

Still, agreeing with a radio loudmouth that a former 4 star general (one who served for years in Vietnam while both Cheney and Rush, huge supporters of that war in theory, sought and received numerous deferments), former Chair of the Joint Chiefs under both a Republican and Democratic administration, and former Secretary of State is a black racist doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY make Cheney himself racist–just a fool. 

So, are their other indications that Cheney is racially prejudiced?  Well, in 1986, Cheney, then a Rep. from Wyoming, voted AGAINST a Congressional resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa. Cheney, like Pres. Ronald Reagan, supported the deeply racist SA Pres. P.W. Botha and considered Mandela a terrorist.  (In 1986, Botha ordered the bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, but MANDELA was a terrorist?) 

Cheney also voted against making Martin Luther King’s birthday a  holiday when he  was a Republican Congressman (1979). He voted against Head Start which, though facially race neutral, helps out African-Americans and Latino children disproportionately because they are more likely to come from the impoverished backgrounds that need the extra help to be ready for Kindergarten. (It is significant that Rep. Linda Chavez (D-CA), the first Head Start grad to become a sitting member of Congress, is also sometimes mentioned as a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court. Would Cheney have apoplexy?)

Cheney has generally hated the press.  He has given more interviews since leaving the Vice Presidency than in his  entire career as a legislative aid,  Deputy Chief of Staff for the Ford White House (during which time he tried to get the DoJ to perform the kinds of illegalities it eventually got caught doing under Ashcroft and Gonzalez–which always led me to think Cheney was behind it all), 5 term Republican Congressman from WY, Secretary of Defense for George H.W. Bush or VP under Bush II.  So, there’s not a lot of verbal record to compare and say conclusively that Cheney is a racist.  But neither is there anything in the record to refute the claim.  The evidence is slim, but it all points one way.

We might add one more piece of evidence:  Cheney’s endorsement of the “Shock and Awe” strategy in the Iraq war–his complete disregard for civilian life.  (Bush I had to reign him in during Gulf War I and insist on the standards of international law.) Was this because Iraquis are generally darker skinned?  Would Cheney have endorsed such tactics if the U.S. was at war with a white majority society like France? (Some would say that Cheney only cares about his own life.) This, too, is not conclusive.

But I think the evidence is definitely starting to pile up that Dick Cheney is a racist bigot.


May 11, 2009 Posted by | prejudice, race, tradition, U.S. politics | 24 Comments