01/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lumps of Coal in Cheney's Stocking

If Dick Cheney had Dennis Kucinich's voice, people would think he's a lunatic.

Since Dick Cheney has a deep voice, a calm and well-modulated voice, people constantly give him the benefit of the doubt -- and that's the real lunacy.

The days are winding down on the outgoing administration -- Only eight years? It seemed so much longer! -- and the "History with a Twist" Tour is heating up. You can hardly turn on your television without running into the chief executive of the land and his trusty sidekick -- those would be Dick Cheney and George Bush, respectively, -- telling you how much better everything went during their tenure than reason, or the facts, say it did.

The latest foray into fantasy came just this past weekend, when Cheney subjected himself to the always-fierce questioning of Fox News, in the person of Chris Wallace. The news accounts of the appearance described the veep as "unapologetic." That doesn't quite capture it. Genghis Khan was "unapologetic." Dick Cheney took remorselessness to a whole new level.

He conceded virtually nothing. He retreated not an inch. And whatever it was, he'd do it all again without a second thought or a moment's regret.

"I feel very good about a lot of the things we've done in this administration," he told Wallace. "I think that they will be viewed in a favorable light when it's time to write the history of this era."

That would be the light of the emerald sun Hyena, in the constellation Wingnut.

Here on Planet Earth? Not so much.

Had the incoming veep, Joe Biden, been sharply critical of Cheney's approach to the job? Of the way Cheney had amassed power, and exercised influence? Had Biden promised a rebalancing of authority in the new administration? Cheney flicked his successor aside like so much pocket lint.

"(I)f he wants to diminish the office of Vice President," Cheney taunted, "that's obviously his call. I think that President-Elect Obama will decide what he wants in a Vice President. And apparently, from the way they're talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time."

Apparently, from the way they're talking about it, Barack Obama actually intends to be his own president. Apparently, Obama isn't interested in having his strings pulled like a dime-store yo-yo by the guy who's supposedly his second-in-command. (Then again, Obama wasn't the sort to put Biden in charge of his vice-presidential selection search, and then let Biden select himself. That alone should have set the Cheney alarm bells clanging.)

Look -- I said it at the time, and I still believe it, more than seven years later: When those planes hit those buildings on September 11, Dick Cheney did the country a very good turn. If we had to have one half of the Bush-Cheney duo bouncing around the country in an airplane, and the other half sitting in a White House bunker analyzing intelligence and issuing orders, I'm glad we had each of them where we did: Bush up in the air, Cheney underground.

But the lessons Cheney took from that day -- and from the decades-long grudge he'd held against those who'd responded to a corrupt president (Richard Nixon) pushing an unwinnable war (Vietnam) by tightening the reins on his successor (Gerald Ford, the man Cheney served as chief of staff) -- those lessons went way past what was necessary. Let alone legal. Let alone helpful. Let alone wise.

His judgment as vice president has been mostly terrible, his influence pernicious, his advice consistently counterproductive, even dangerous. The damage Dick Cheney has done to America's security interests in the world has yet to be fully calculated. Not that he'll ever admit to any of it.

He's got a nice voice, though.

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at