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Working toward the Fuhrer in the Village

To me, what's interesting about Suskind's new book isn't the forged letters, even though (surprise) that's what Politico focuses on. What's interesting is this passage:

Suskind contends Cheney established “deniability” for Bush as part of the vice president’s “complex strategies, developed over decades, for how to protect a president.”

“After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn’t know – things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

The key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something he'd authorized. The whole point of Cheney’s model is to make a president less accountable for his action. Cheney’s view is that accountability – a bedrock feature of representative democracy – is not, in every case, a virtue.”

Remind you of anything? Like this?

From a review in, of all places, The National Review, of Ian Kershaw’s Hitler: 1936-1945: Nemesis:

The Fuhrer state, as Kershaw shows, moved dynamically in a radical direction. Hitler himself was the source of all power because of his hold on the German Volk. There was no need to issue detailed orders. He merely set forth the goals in broad outline, as he had done in Mein Kampf and countless speeches. Here Kershaw introduces an expression I had not known before: “working toward the Fuhrer.” Individuals competed for Hitler’s favor by divining his wishes and getting things done. Whether building U-boats or bombers, producing artificial rubber, or rounding up and “relocating” Jews, the elites of the Reich “worked toward the Fuhrer.” This produced accelerating activity in the direction he was known to favor. Little was to be gained by arguing that the country had enough U-boats, for example. And there were no institutional checks: no Politburo, no highly organized and bureaucratic party.

Sound familiar? Especially that part about “no checks”?

History may not repeat. But it certainly does rhyme.

Yes, we called our shot back in March 2007, at least.

However, I'd argue that Suskind gets it wrong in one critical respect. He writes, again:

The key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there.

In fact, the attitude of "working toward Bush" permeated the entire Federal government, especially among the Christianist appartchiks in the Bush DOJ. Remember Sarah Taylor?

LEAHY: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

TAYLOR: Uh, I, uh, yes, you’re correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what—

LEAHY: Did you take a second oath to the President?

TAYLOR: I did not. I—

LEAHY: So the answer was incorrect.

TAYLOR: The answer was incorrect.

LEAHY: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government — it’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.


And that, my friends, is why movements centered on charismatic individuals are inherently dangerous to the rule of law: The people in the movement start thinking about what the leader wants, instead of what the law demands.

Thank God we won't have to worry about that kind of movement again. Because we're good. Unlike them.

NOTE I'm saying "the Village" instead of "the Bush White House," because as far as I can tell from actions (FISA) as opposed to words, the FKD wants to consolidate and rationalize Bush's authoritarian gains, not role them back. Which could actually be even more dangerous than Bush, since Dems really do care about making government "work," instead of smashing and looting it.

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