It never seems to fail. Just when you feel that you've moved on to a better era, a dark and sinister character from your past appears and offers a subtle reminder of how you once used to live. Like an ex-significant other who you painfully run into on the street, or who bad mouths you on the Today show (and we've all been there), former Vice President Dick Cheney decided to wrangle himself from his undisclosed location (were we supposed to be looking for him? Worst game of hide-and-seek...ever) to offer his two cents on the current state of things.
Cheney broadsided President Obama by informing the NBC correspondents that Obama will be a one-term president because of Obama's "overall approach to expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, and giving more and more authority and power to the government over the private sector." Cheney also claimed health care reform would be President Obama's downfall, because Obama "enacted a program that a great many people are very worried about. And that there's a lot of support out there for the effort to repeal that health care package."
Now, I have always thought Dick Cheney looked eerily similar to the Batman character, "The Penguin," and I know others have made the connection as well. Jon Stewart's impression of Cheney always invoked a Penguin reference, but I'll take it a step further - Cheney's personality matches the villain as well. Though I have never been a comic book fan, this description of the villain, courtesy of Wikipedia, is quite apt:
"The Penguin is a master criminal strategist; he uses his considerable intellect to gain wealth and power through less than legal means. Driven entirely by self-interest, the Penguin often relies on cunning, wit, and intimidation to exploit his surrounding[s] for profit and advance his own schemes."
If it looks like a Penguin and acts like a Penguin, it's Dick Cheney.
Self-interest? Less than legal means? Relies on intimidation? This is the same vice president who took an attorney, an attorney, out to hunt with him, shot him in the face and then got him to apologize. He shot a man. In the face. And the victim apologized for his face getting in the way of Cheney's bullet. If a lawyer who took buckshot to his grill is too scared to do anything but apologize, what chance did America have against him?
Cheney may be a blast from America's past, but he is the same man who had normal Americans running in circular panic based on whatever color Cheney decided the day to be. "Today is a yellow warning day, I can feel it," he'd quack to himself. Don't believe it? Ask the man in Connecticut who wrapped his entire home in plastic after a terror warning, just in case. With this in mind, we might as well look into Cheney's recent accusation on the Today show.
Cheney claims that the size of the federal government will ultimately be President Obama's undoing, but the numbers don't really bear that out. The size of the federal government grew substantially in terms of budget deficit under President Bush, and President Obama's numbers are very close to Bush's in terms of federal employment. Using data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and averaging the number of federal employees under President Bush's first four years in office, we see that there were roughly 4.1 million federal employees under Bush's watch. Though we can only average the first two years of President Obama's tenure, Obama presides over roughly 4.3 million federal employees, a difference of a few hundred thousand. To put these numbers in perspective, the first four years of President Clinton's stay as president saw an average of 5.7 million federal employees. The lesson learned? The number of federal employees has not skyrocketed out of control, as Republicans like Cheney claim. In fact, there are less federal employees now than there were during the 1990s.
Cheney's second criticism toward President Obama involved health care, which Cheney claimed had a lot of repeal support. The latest Gallup poll shows that 46% of Americans favor Obama's health care reform, whereas 40% oppose. Dick Cheney is right when he says there are a number of Americans against the health care bill - he just either doesn't know there are more who support it, or he decided to only tell a half-truth on the Today show. Considering his personality resemblance to the Penguin, my money is on his telling a half-truth.
Cheney is a relic from an administration that destroyed the US economy, buried us in debt, and ruined the reputation of the US abroad. But his comments should be listened to and debunked. Cheney may appear to no longer wield power, which is exactly why we should take him seriously. Villains always seem to strike when it appears they're impotent.
Scott Janssen is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a Master's degree in Political Science and is a political contributor for damego.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.