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Dick Cheney's dismissive prejudice

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Posted: April 6, 2008 2:51 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
"Basically, I am skeptical about the ability of government to solve problems, and I have a healthy respect for the ability of people to solve problems on their own."

Classic Wyoming anti-government individualism like that has long made Vice President Dick Cheney a grassroots conservative pin-up. He earned his place on the wall by establishing a House voting record that was second to none in conservative credentials.

His conservatism of limited government (that cutting-edge theory untested by the pseudo-Goldwater/Reagan "conservatives" like our president), individual responsibility and freedom, and free-market reliance mirror my own. Naturally, I felt quite comfortable when then-candidate Bush unveiled his running mate in 2000.

But lately, my affinity for Mr. Cheney has waned. Like his, my conservatism is innately leery of government. That skepticism, again like his, is the reflection of my trust in the ability - and consequently the wisdom - of people to solve problems on their own.

Trusting in peoples' wisdom necessarily involves "a healthy respect" for their beliefs and concerns. That "healthy respect," then, logically entails a desire to take into account those beliefs and concerns.

With all of that, I was sure Dick Cheney would agree. Now I wonder if the Cheney hubris of "so" in dismissing the concerns of almost seven out of 10 Americans regarding Iraq is approaching the Clinton hubris of "because I could."

When told that 66 percent of Americans believe the Iraq War is "not worth fighting," Vice President Cheney responded with a single calm and anticipatory "so." His not-so-respectful "so" carried an unmistakable air of "and" or "what's your point, Martha?"

Common sense says that responding with "so" carries with it an indifference and dismissive prejudice. It is the short way of telling someone that their thinking is irrelevant and insignificant.

That bit of horse sense cannot be lost on a veteran campaigner whose five terms in Congress and two terms as vice president have largely been built on effectively persuading voters of his deep interest in their concerns. We are left to conclude that Cheney meant what he said. That, regarding the biggest foreign policy and military debate in recent memory, insignificant is the judgment of almost seven out of 10 Americans.

Unsettled by Cheney's callous retort, Raddatz then asked, "You don't care what the American people think?" Attempting to clarify, Cheney answered, "No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."

"Fluctuations"? He cannot actually believe that the majority of Americans have fluctuated in recent years in their opinion that the Iraq War is not worth fighting. If so, talk about your ivory-tower, groupthink life.
His "no" slightly softened his earlier response of "so," but calling the view of 66 percent of Americans "fluctuations in the public opinion polls" reverses that softening because, first, the Bush administration has a famous near distaste for opinion polls, and second, that apathy disinclines the Bush/Cheney partnership from change caused by those "fluctuations."

So equating the view of almost seven out of 10 Americans with "fluctuations in the ... polls" is a blatant downgrading of Americans' opinions to inappreciable. Where is that "healthy respect"? Is he "skeptical about the ability of government" except when he pulls the levers? Remember the old television show Father Knows Best? This must be Cheney Knows Best.

Raddatz later referenced that several troops that she talked to while in Iraq recently who said they would not mind if Obama were elected and pulled them out "right away." Citing those admissions, Raddatz asked if Cheney had any reaction.

His answer: "No. They're a broad cross section of America."

Translation: "Our country is very diverse and our military reflects that; therefore, we are bound to have some dissenters. That reasonable complaint is expected and irrelevant." Smell another "so" in that?

Conservatism stands athwart Washington's neo-de Gaulle elitism that would dismiss out-of-hand the concerns of "we the people." Being more than mere policy ink, conservatism understands that answering "so" or the like to "we the people" betrays an elitism and hubris that is skeptical not of government but of the people. Reagan said that government is not the solution but the problem. A dismissive Washington rebuttal, be it from the right or the left, is government being the problem.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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