Friday, August 13, 2004

Different Strokes

Old-time Washingtonians keep remarking that the Dick Cheney they knew, as a deputy chief of staff to President Ford, as congressman, as secretary of defense, is the not the Dick Cheney they see sitting in the West Wing today. The old Cheney was a reasonable, yet conservative man. The new Dick Cheney cannot be reasoned with and is still a conservative man. Why is that? Did Cheney snap? What caused it?

I talked to a former journalist (he was once the WH correspondent for WSJ during Reagan) friend of my parents, who had met and interviewed the old Cheney too and told me his theory: Lots of people, he said, undergo a personality change post-stroke. Some become less cautious and more eager to live whatever life they have left. Others, of course, have trouble talking or walking because of their strokes. Many like Cheney change, from being kind gentle souls (regular old staffers and bureaucrats) to becoming angry, disgruntled characters of their former selves. It is a Dr. Hyde and Mr. Jeckyll result, and exactly what he and I think happened.

In the early 90s Cheney was hesitant on expanding the first Gulf War. The Cheney of the late 1990s and early 2000s couldn't wait to go to war with Iraq and overthrow Saddam, evidence or reality be damned. The old Cheney never would have been caught calling the Time's Adam Clymer a "Big Time [a@@hole]" But that is exactly what the new Cheney did campaigning in 2000 in Naperville, IL (earning him the nickname "Big Time" ever since). The pre-stroke[s] Cheney was sensitive, the post-stroke[s] Cheney is making fun of Kerry for being sensitive while his boss is nearly simultaneously using the same word in the same context (meaning diplomatic/judicious).

So in a way, I feel sorry for the Cheney family. Their dad/husband has changed overnight into what Jon Stewart called "the personification of a grumble." Then again, they don't seem to have tried to help him; if anything, they have embraced and encouraged the radicalized Cheney (especially his wife Lynn, who somehow was in the situation room on 9/11, thinking she could give orders). On second thought, I feel sorry for the American people who were baited and switched, they were sold the old Cheney, who was supposed to temper hot-blooded George W. Bush, but they got new Cheney, who has pushed Bush's buttons to go to war.

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