Vice Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work
By MAUREEN DOWD
I called Tim Russert to ask if Dick Cheney had washed his hands after their interview on Sunday.
“No-o-o,’’ he replied, sounding confused.
Any sort of scrubbing, I wondered? Antiseptic wipe, Purell, quick shower on the way out?
No, Tim assured me, the vice president did not stop at the basement shower at NBC, or even drop by the men’s room you pass on the right as you head out to the parking lot.
According to The Times’s health section yesterday, Lady Macbeth and Pontius Pilate were not alone in wanting that “damned spot” out.
“People who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn’t,’’ Benedict Carey wrote about a new study on the “Macbeth effect,” published in the journal Science.
“In one of several experiments among Northwestern undergraduates, the researchers had one group of students recall an unethical act from their past, like betraying a friend, and another group reflect on an ethical deed, like returning lost money,’’ the article said. “Afterward, the students had their choice of a gift, either a pencil or an antiseptic wipe. Those who had reflected on a shameful act were twice as likely as the others to take the wipe.’’
If Dick Cheney didn’t try to hose himself down after his outlandish performance on “Meet the Press,’’ he may be so deep in denial he doesn’t even know he’s ruining America and needs a symbolic moral superwash.
Since W. revealed he’s been reading Shakespeare — including “Macbeth” — I’ve been puzzling over which character the vice president most resembles. He’s got as much malignant sway over the protagonist as Iago, but Iago hated Othello.
The Lord of the Underworld is more like Lady Macbeth, who persuades her partner to make a huge error in judgment by taunting him about manliness. If he doesn’t want to be unmanned, he must pre-emptively wield the dagger against his rival. She tells him:
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.
Even though “blood will have blood,” Macbeth decides he must stay on his self-destructive path:
I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.
W. and Vice went on TV this week to double down on their dishonest case, now contradicted by a mountain of evidence, once more milking our sorrow over 9/11 to justify their errant course in Iraq.
In a speech that Tony Snow promised would be “reflective,’’ the president used hyperventilated rhetoric about “a struggle for civilization” and cynically retraced a line he now knows is false, again linking Osama and Baghdad: “If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened.’’
Bin Laden has become the Willie Horton of the midterms. After letting the C.I.A. disband the unit devoted to hunting for Osama — the Senate took a slap at the White House on Thursday when it voted to reinstate it — Mr. Bush now won’t stop talking about the bogeyman he ignored for five years while he transferred all his resources to Iraq.
“The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad,” he said.
Instead of going after Osama, we invaded Iraq. Now W. says we must stay in Iraq or it will be run by Osamas. We must kill all the terrorists we are creating. American soldiers must keep dying because American soldiers have died. If we criticize Mr. Bush, then we’re unmanning the whole country. The logic is deviously Rovian, and we are trapped in the circularity.
On “Meet the Press,’’ Mr. Cheney warned that America cannot let its adversaries “break our will’’ and show we “don’t have the stomach for the fight.’’
“It was the right thing to do,” Vice insisted of the war in Iraq, “and if we had to do it over again we would do exactly the same thing.”
After all the miscalculations and billions wasted, projects screwed up, lives and limbs lost, foreign enemies made, American stature squandered, Taliban strength regained, North Korean bombs and Iran-Iraq alliances built (visiting the American-hating, Holocaust-denying Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq called Iran “a good friend and brother’’) Dick Cheney wouldn’t do anything differently?
Part of leadership has to be retooling, saying: “You know what? This hasn’t worked. This is making things worse. What else can we do?’’
Break out the Wet Wipes, Mr. Cheney. Time for a good scrubbing.