Looking Back on the Cheney Presidency
It was five days ago today that the Dick Cheney presidency ended, yet the event still remains firmly embedded in our collective memory. There are few among us who will ever forget where we were during those amazing two hours and fifteen minutes of Cheney’s reign in the White House–and as we head into this historic fourth of July weekend, the time seems ripe for us all to look back and try to make some sense of those distant but compelling events of June 29, 2002.
Who among us will ever forget the stirring sensations of 7:08 a.m., when Cheney, as he glared out the Oval Office window in the direction of the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, shifted in his seat, snorted, and tugged at an irritating fold in the inseam of his trousers, as he awaited news of the administration of anesthesia to George Bush?
Or what about the electrifying drama of 7:16 a.m., when, after inexplicably sitting mute and with his mouth open for the first seven minutes of his presidency, Cheney suddenly lunged and pulled open the top drawer of Bush’s desk, to see what was inside?
Most historians today agree that future generations will likely look beyond what is now considered the key event of the Cheney presidency — the notorious “enormous dump” of minutes 47-62– and find a deeper meaning to his rule. Many observers, like Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believe that Americans will eventually remember the Cheney era as a time of relative prosperity and optimism, particularly since it came at time when most of us were still asleep and, as it was still early in the morning, largely free of any immediate pressure to feign sexual interest in our wives.
The world was at peace during the Cheney era. Across the earth, men treated each other with kindness and decency as never before. In a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, a German businessman asks for a check–and gets it. Sao Paolo, Brazil, 7:36 EST: a man catches a fish. Mexico City, the same time: two hookers brush their teeth. Ten minutes later, in Kyoto and Archangelsk, respectively: a bicycle goes unstolen and an icicle falls thirteen stories, striking only a cat.
Harmony was the order of the day in the Cheney era. Motorists everywhere stopped at intersections and then moved on again, seeing that the light had turned green. At Wimbledon, part of one-half of the fourth round of the men’s draw played to near-completion. In France, a nation faced an afternoon. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. We were all a little bit younger, and a little more gay. It was a time when the president of the United States could stare at a notepad for twenty minutes, convinced that he had spelled the word “containment” wrong; it was a time when a slug could crawl almost six feet.
We knew who we were during the Cheney era. When we woke up that morning, our wallet was still in our pants. There were still three beers left in the fridge–two Genesees and a Molson. It was still too early in our lives to sort out what had happened the night before, and how this fat girl with a mole had come to be sleeping in our bed, and wearing our Motley Crue T-shirt. It was time when there was still a chance to get her the hell out of there before our friends found out, a time when you could still hope to promise her breakfast at Le Metro, and instead push her out of the car in the parking lot at Jim’s Steak-Out. The reality of 10:37 a.m. and 12:42 p.m., when she was still there and still flipping through your photo albums, had yet to set in. And the nightmare of Tuesday, July 2, when you yourself called her up late at night and asked her to come over, using the back entrance, was as yet a distant and seemingly unreal possibility.
Today, we now know that this golden age came cruelly to an end when endoscopist James Butler clicked off his head-lamp and pulled his scope out of the colon of George W. Bush. Twenty minutes after the procedure ended, our elected president awoke, and the Cheney era galloped off on its august steed, vanishing into the muddy prairie of history. How will we remember this time? What profound emotions will those memories set astir? We at the BEAST only wish we knew, and like the rest of you, we can only wait–and let time cast its vote.