The Weak Link Theory of Economic Development
Truly Unforgettable Moments on the Internet: First in a Series

The Highest Broderism of All: Keeping Ones Eyes Closed for Six Years as a Favor to Dick Cheney (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

David Broder of the Washington Post writes on Thursday morning:

David S. Broder - Cheney Unbound - [W]hen presidential candidate George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate, I applauded the choice.... Boy, was I wrong..... Cheney... used the broad authority given him by a complaisant chief executive to bend the decision-making process to his own ends and purposes, often overriding Cabinet officers and other executive branch officials along the way.... [H]e outfoxed even the veterans of past administrations when it came to the bureaucratic wars... shaped all of those decisions with his recommendations to the president -- often in ways that were unknown to the other players and unseen by Congress and the public.... Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill... [t]he secretary of state, the national security adviser and the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board also discovered to their surprise that Cheney had gone behind their backs to get his way with the president... used his intelligence and his grasp on the levers of power -- and most of all he used secrecy -- to outflank and outwit others and thereby shape the Bush administration's agenda.... [U]ltimately the president is responsible for... the resulting wreckage of foreign policy, national security policy, budget policy, energy policy and environmental policy under Cheney's direction and on Cheney's watch...

Broder has learned this today, June 28, 2007. He has learned this because he has read the news--which is a:

breathtakingly detailed series in The Post this week by reporters Barton Gellman and Jo Becker... a year of work that reveals more about the inner workings of this White House than any previous reporting.... Cheney shaped all of those [Bush] decisions... in ways that were unknown to the other players and unseen by Congress and the public. Secrecy was one of his tools and weapons.... [O]ther policymakers... discovered to their surprise that Cheney had gone behind their backs to get his way.... [A] political entrepreneur of surpassing skill operating under an exceptional cloak of secrecy. Thanks to Gellman and Becker, some of that secrecy has been removed.

Broder is going to have an online chat tomorrow, June 29, 2007. I have a question for him:

Dear Mr. Broder:

I was surprised to read you writing yesterday.... I was surprised because it seems to have been something that Gellman, and Becker, and you could have written back in July of 2001.

For it was back in July of 2001 that Bush subcabinet officials told me that:

  1. Cheney had overruled Treasury Secretary O'Neill and Federal Reserve Chair Greenspan on budget policy
  2. Cheney had overruled EPA Administrator Whitman and Treasury Secretary O'Neill on global-warming policy
  3. Cheney had overruled Secretary of State Colin Powell on North Korea policy
  4. George W. Bush had neither the patience nor the intelligence to master the issues
  5. it looked as though Bush had decided to rely on Cheney's opinion on pretty much everything.

Even before 911, as we learned no later than the end of 2003 when Ron Suskind published his Price of Loyalty, senior Republicans inside and outside the administration were having a great many quiet "what has happened to Dick?" conversations about Cheney's dysfunctional role. And we also learned that Cheney had blocked Greenspan and O'Neill again in their attempts to stop the steel tariff. And we also learned that Cheney had made Rumsfeld fire aides who actually were prepared to rebuild Iraq. And we knew--we knew an awful lot of stuff.

So why didn't you write about this back in July 2001? Are my sources--from Berkeley, 3000 miles away from you and Washington--really that much better than yours?


Brad DeLong

Let me put my cards on the table. I think that Broder--like me--knew pretty much the story back in July 2001. I think that he didn't write about it because it didn't suit his purposes and interests for him to inform his readers what he believed to be the case about the workings of the White House. Now it suits his purposes and interests to pretend that Gellman and Becker are bringing a lot of genuinely new information to the table, rather than just filling in the details of a picture that has been known in broad outline for six years.

This raises the obvious question: Why should anybody get their news six years late from the Washington Post? Shouldn't people get the news earlier from more aggressive and less corrupted reporters who value their reputation as news disseminators like Ron Suskind, and perhaps from webloggers who feel honor-bound to tell the truth?