Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Torturous Strange Loop That is Cheney

Cheney loves Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s probably mutually affectionate. But you will hear Limbaugh and others trash the Bush Administration, which Cheney was a part of, even dominated. This despite the fact that they essentially push many of the same policies, un-self-consciously, that were hallmarks of the Bush Adminstration. They’re even still pushing tax cuts for the rich, with no sense whatsover of irony.

First, what the hell is a strange loop? A strange loop is a tangled hierarchy. Hierarchy, as in a system where one thing sits on top of another, tangled as in something on the bottom determines something on top. Sort of like an election: citizens change the government that governs them, and by extension, the laws they all have to abide by. This structure was first offered up, to the best of my knowledge by cognitive theorist Douglas Hofstadter in his now classic book Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.

Second, then, what the hell does this have to do with Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh?

They're trying to pull the Republican Party through one of these loops, I believe. They're trying to, by dint of semantics and disingenuous argument, reshift perceptions of the Republican Party back towards the positive.

They can't or won't change their own politics, but they surely have no desire to remain unpopular. So, they will B.S., and hope that America buys it. They will complain about fiscal responsibility loudly, then offer alternatives that cause even greater deficits, for example. They will blast people for not supporting torture, but will never call it torture themselves, knowing that while the term is accurate, it's also a lightning rod admission of criminal conduct. They will try and turn a law that prevents minority discrimination into a scapegoat for all the defaults that loans covered by the law suffer less than average.

The Republicans and conservatives understand that presented nakedly, without rhetorical flourish or not-so-glaring omissions, the sympathy for conservatism doesn't run high. People must be taught to like it. They must be taught to learn at the school of hard knocks, make them tougher. Then they will be grateful and refuse liberalism like good conservatives should.

The trouble with this approach is that it encourages a tolerance for malfunction of the government. It encourages a "hands-off" kind of approach to dealing with American's complaints. It encourages a patronizing attitude towards dissatisfaction with the party.

Finally, it encourages a way of dealing with politics where not only do people buy that the ends justify the means, but the means are embraced even where they are destructive towards the ends, the thought being that if the platform is carried out to completion, that all will turn out well.

That it hasn't doesn't phase the supporters. They're not looking for immediate results. They're looking for things to eventually turn out well, with a lot of pain and suffering in the meantime that people will have to accept for their own good.

The Tax Policy will eventually lead to higher revenues. Staying the Course, not changing the policy, not putting anymore troops in will eventually lead to victory.

You'll thank us one day. You will. That's what they say. Well, people waited for that day when they could thank the Republicans. And waited. And waited. The GOP believed it was entitled to that deference, that forbearance. The American People did not agree, ultimately, and in 2006 and 2008 more or less reversed the GOP's fortunes.

This is the situation we have today. The Republicans have, by and large, taken to talking about all this as bad luck, saying that the nation is still center right, that they're just being punished for not being conservative enough, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time during the economic crisis and the implosion of Iraq into civil strife. They're still blaming the liberals for policy failures on their watch, the policies that failed largely being of their own authorship.

The spin is roaring out from the party, the party doing its best, at a rather late date, to put serious distance between it and the unpopular former President, even while they essentially push many of his same policies, throw apologetics forth for many of his decisions. It's a bit of a trick, really, So how do they manage it?

Relentless party discipline, so nobody in the party is calling them on their bull. Relentless redefining of arguments and policy framing. Focus grouped words, pitched to give the nastiest, worst impressions on their rival's policies, and the brightest, shiniest impression on their own.

Rather than change the policy, they'll try to change perceptions. It makes sense. There's just one big problem here: they aren't the only things or people in town with the ability to change perceptions. Or put another way, the Republicans are not the only Strange Loop that exists in reality or people's heads, or between the two.

The consequences of Republican policy remain, and in their fierce determination to defend this policy, the Republicans have only ensured that people won't forget who constituted the moving force behind this policy. By being immoderate, by being stubbornly opposed to the change, by making their opposition as visible as possible, the GOP made it impossible for themselves to escape responsiblity. It can be said that they're fighting their own, all-too-real legacy, as much as the Democrats or anything or anybody else.

Cheney changed the system. Limbaugh changed the system. They got, essentially, what they wanted. They attack a man, though, who did better, at least before they got their hands on him. Colin Powell led the nation's army to victory in Kuwait. It was his credibility they borrowed upon to achieve the public favor they could not gain for themselves. Colin Powell's reputation as a moderate was politically convenient to them at the time. Now, they're sick of him. Now they don't want a thing to do with him. Strange how things change. They needed him then because everybody knew that they favored the war for their own political, factional reasons. They knew that this would alter the reception of any message they gave, that they would not impress the people who didn't share their political loyalties. But a practical, war-winning former four-star would be a different matter altogether.

The trust they played upon and destroyed was that of a man who people would trust would not give them a plan or a report just for the sake of political persuasion, to get the power they want. They played upon the reputation of a public servant, a person who put the average American's interests above their own.

Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh, and other Republicans lost sight of what the first priority of the government is. It's not to reduce, nor to grow itself, It's not to tax high or low, to regulate or not to regulate, or any other kind of false dichotomy of public policy. It's not to serve Republicans or Democrats.

It's to serve the people, to serve the best interests of this nation, not those simply folks lacking the imagination to consider that those interests might be served another way.

The Republicans got kicked out because people got the sense that no matter what happened, the Republicans would serve their own political ends, their own agenda for America, before they would take care of business in running the country competently. They asked again and again for the GOP to take care of business, but were met with hostility and arrogance. Since the Republicans have not seen fit to change, the opinion of the American people has, and not positively.

The Republicans need more Colin Powell's, not fewer, more moderates, not fewer, more sympathy for and concern with the troubles and the travails of the American people, not less. At the very least, no matter what they're politics, they need people who are less concerned with creating politically cute reasons not to follow America's general leftward political trend, and more concerned with the nuts, bolts, and good function of America's policy.

If the Republicans want to change their fortunes for the better, it will be best in the long term for them to redeem their reputations with results, with helping Americans to see better days ahead in fact, rather than merely in the promise of a distant time. You can't ultimately sell people conservative government, much less small government, when they can't see how that will turn out for the best.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at May 11, 2009 10:23 AM
Comment #281508

Im beginning to think maybe, just maybe we’ve been looking at Dick Cheney’s behavior the wrong way. I mean, if I were him, I would be carrying a lot of guilt knowing that it was his and Bush’s administration that allowed Al Quaeda to successfully destroy the WTC and murder 3000 innocent people(not the Democrats). They were 9 months into their first term when this happened, they should feel guilty. And I’d like to drive home one point that always seems to NOT come up. There was an 8 year period between the first WTC attack in 1993 and the one on 911. So, why cant you say Clinton and the Dems kept up safe for the last 7 yrs of his term? And also, one might deduce that it is quite possible another major attack is coming in 2009—8 yrs after the last attack on the WTC. I never hear anyone talk about this, ever. So did Bush and Cheney really keep us safe, or was it just not time for another planned attack by Al Qaeda? Think about it.

Posted by: Mark B at May 11, 2009 5:21 PM
Comment #281509

As a member of the United State Government, he was bound not only to protect the people from foreign enemies, but from himself, if you look at it a certain way.

What good is it to be safe from terrorists if their terror is replaced by that of a government unbound by rule of law to abstain from intrusions on our lives?

Cheney wants a Government that preserves what he thinks is best, and pursues and harrasses all that isn’t. I want a government that has power, but also is restrained powerfully as well, where the government works around the rights of the citizens.

That is the tension I desire between the two.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 11, 2009 5:44 PM
Comment #281510

They are suffering from the ‘Ideologs Quandry,’ After sucessfully dining on thier own moderates and centrists over the last decade, they have no one left of true broad based appeal to expound upon thier policies.
I read on CNN where one of Bushes former stratagests is propsing a Gary Sinese run in 2012.
I have heard it said that in chess control of the center is key to victory. In republican polotics ’ eh not so much’

Posted by: Ted at May 11, 2009 9:42 PM
Comment #281511

Great article Steven,
I have one question about Arlen Specter’s whole ordeal. Who is the “Club for growth”? Specter talked about this right wing organization and how they’re getting rid of moderates in their own party. But I haven’t heard anything out of the media about it. Are they afraid of them too? If they’re in the process of destroying Republican’s careers, they can’t be all bad. Maybe they should change the name of their organization to The Club for Shrinkage.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at May 11, 2009 10:08 PM
Comment #281512

Club For Growth is basically an outfit that’s done its level best to oppose any candidate who doesn’t adhere to the philosophy that there’s no such thing as a bad tax cut. Anybody who raises taxes or runs counter to the small government sensibility gets targeted by them. Pat Toomey, the Republican who was challenging Specter, was the head of that group before he quit to challenge him.

As for their influence as a group? If I had a choice between the Republicans ditching them or the Club destroying Republicans, I would pick the former. I think we need an end to the partisanship, not a continuation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 11, 2009 10:55 PM
Comment #281518

Cheney suffers from the them or us syndrome. If you listen to Limbaugh, his stances are rife with it. Of course, they sell this as the common man versus elites. This is why they foist Reagan, Bush, and Palin on the public. But look again. Are any of them like any of us? They are wealthy, connected, and walled off elites. That is who they serve.

Sadly they use common issues, very effectively, to rally folks with bigotry issues, and inferiority complexes. Many people feel deprived by minorities, women’s rights, and foreigners. They feel their educated overlords are unfair to them. Mom and Dad and the Church had it right when I was a kid. I know I supposed to listen to my strong father figure. Dad says them odd folks is stealing from me, I know I’m struggling, they MUST be right. Abortion, flag burning, homosexuality, Bra burners, Commies, Atheists, Foreigners and Minorities are destroying white lower middle class America. That’s their demographic.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2009 8:21 AM
Comment #281520

Reagan brought Colin Powell into government over twenty years ago , He proved to be well respected and well liked and very popular after the first gulf war he was touted by both parties sound familiar “Eisenhower” and remained so popular I believe he would had giving Clinton a run for his money in 1996 he decided not to run ,Later he supported Bush for president I do believe he lost a bit of credibility with his UN speeches with the case for going to war with Iraq i think even he admitted later that the evidence wasn’t there and how he was goated along by Cheney and others because he was so well liked and popular, Working for a Dirty outfit can do that at least he had the good sense to leave, I believe Cheney never liked Powell anyways and used him to the point of abusing Powell so their is some bad blood their and Powell was the gentleman I think the folks even see it, Cheney is a flake.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 12, 2009 10:48 AM
Comment #281523

As a former Republican Voter up till 17 years ago and a Indenpendent voter in my opinion Cheney is a flake he earned that title Obama will be held under the same lens scrutiny with me I do believe you are wrong J.P. comparing the two Cheney has a lot of History to back up my assertions .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 12, 2009 11:20 AM
Comment #281524

Are we dealing with rumor and innuendo on that documentation, or solid fact?

What’s not rumor or innuendo is Bush’s close connectiont to the Saudi Royal Family. What’s not rumor or innuendo is that Bush did not decide to respond to the attack on the Cole. Faced with the infamous memo about Bin Laden being prepared to attack here, he told the briefer “okay, you’ve covered your ass.” It is truly documented fact that he refocused American Security policy onto Rogue States and off of counterterrorism, reducing the counterterror czar from a cabinet level to a staff level position.

As for Democrats being intolerant, well some are. But they don’t hold so much control over the party that we’re purging everybody who doesn’t subscribe to the most leftist of leftist ideals. What I talk about in my entry is a disconnect, a failure of narrative synchrony between what the Republicans are saying about their policy and the message people are getting, due to all the events and changes in public sentiment that have come about.

I would go back and do some basic research on the claims that you support your arguments on. Consider: there is no analogue to, say The Club For Growth, on our side of the aisle, concerning tax policy. Democrats didn’t promise to primary everybody who voted for a tax cut. Not so, concerning Republicans. A Democrat can be against abortion, without his party trying to primary him at the drop of a hat. Hardly any pro-choice Republicans remain.

Or let me get more specific: Look at Obama. He’s willing to support, despite his liberalism, Specter’s campaign to re-elect himself as a Democrat. He gave a course during his days as a professor where he told his students, that he would give them doubts concerning the constitutionality of Affirmative Action during the class.

Let’s consider something here: moderation is not merely a matter of politics, but a style of politics as well. You can be centrist in political terms, yet stick to that centrism even when the policies you tout make little sense. Should we call that being moderate?

Folks opposed money in the stimulus bill to prepare for possible outbreaks of the Swine Flu and other pathogens. Now they have to answer for that. Was their policy more moderate, simply because it was fiscally conservative?

Speaking of fiscal conservatism: your percentages and presentation are misleading.

First, a significant detail was constantly left out of Budget deficit figures: the cost of the war. Second, Bush often did not budget for natural disasters, instead going and asking for the money after the fact. Third, Bush, in the last part of his term, actually piled on much of the new spending, in the form of the TARP and Fed Bailouts, that raised that deficit. Beyond the stimulus package, which was arguably necessary because of the economic collapse on Bush’s watch, Obama’s added little in real spending.

Cheney? I wouldn’t call him a flake, but I would say that he doesn’t quite realize how much fire he draws on his party every time he opens his mouth. That, or he doesn’t care. He believes the Republican party should be above petty things like trying to garner public support for its efforts. After all, the Cheney view, the executive branch can do practically anything it wants under it’s authority to command the armed forces.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 12, 2009 1:13 PM
Comment #281525


“It is very well documented as to how Clinton could have got rid of Bin Laden before any of this took place but he was afraid of upsetting the Saudi royal family.”

Well documented?

Where? Please share your sources.

It was well documented that any attempt that Clinton made to “get” Bin Laden was met with comments about ” wag the dog”, or that Clinton was merely trying to deflect attention from the impeachment process.
George Tenet wrote in his book “At the Center of the Storm”, that;

“When the United States started putting pressure on the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden, he became a burden to his hosts. But the question of where he might go was a problem. The Saudis had stripped him of his citizenship in 1994 and certainly didn’t want him coming back to the kingdom. Press reports and the Internet rumor mill continue to contend that the Sudanese had offered to extradite UBL to the United States, but I am unaware of anything to substantiate that.”


“As much as we all wanted Bin Laden dead, the use of force by a superpower requires information, discipline, and time. We rarely had the information insufficient quantities or the time to evaluate and act on it.”

In other words it doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Seems to me that in the rush to bury Clinton, the Republicans did a great disservice to the American people in the long run.

The Bush administration was given the information that had been gathered by the CIA for the preceding administration, and did nothing.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 12, 2009 1:24 PM
Comment #281526

Why does Olberman still feel the strong need to apologize for democrats and liberals? Why can’t he just report on what good they may be doing, instead of what an ousted group did?

And really, does anyone really care what a sportscaster has to say about politics. Oh wait, he was fired from that too. Now I get it!

Posted by: Chris at May 12, 2009 8:10 PM
Comment #281527


Sarcasm aside….

Olbermann was fired from Fox Sports for reporting that Rupert Murdoch was about to sell the LA Dodgers.

And then Murdoch sold the Dodgers.

Olbermann gets paid to give his opinion, that’s the gist of what “Countdown” is.
Limbaugh at one time worked for the Kansas City Royals. By your logic should we care about his opinion either?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 12, 2009 9:18 PM
Comment #281528

Why did Rush Limbaugh continue to beat up on Democrats during the Bush years?

Olbermann is a partisan. I’m sure few Republicans could watch his show for too long without changing the channel. His audience are Democratic Party Partisans, and young folks who love his acerbic, sarcastic style.

Personally, I don’t watch him all that often. I’m more the hard news type. I do my own commentary, you could say, so I don’t really feel much of a need to dwell on that of others.

I’ll say one thing for Olbermann, though: watch his technique. He typically hits people on charges he can prove true. He takes advantage of the all too common occassions that a Republican Politician or commentator opens up his or her mouth and starts talking out of their hat.

Republicans need to be more independent consumers of information, and less phobic about getting information from the mainstream media. My entry above was mainly about the excessive emphasis of the Republicans on turning situations to their advantage by employing spin and rhetoric. I can’t say I’ve never relied on rhetoric to respond to somebody, but I find it so much more elegant and strong a response to rebut the other side on a factual basis. Knowing what’s right instead of guessing on a partisan basis has another side benefit: you know what lousy arguments you shouldn’t commit to.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 12, 2009 9:23 PM
Comment #281530

I remember Keith over twenty years ago on channel 5 in Los Angeles he was a sports announcer back then he’d get off on a rant and ole Hal Fishman BTW a great Professional Man would set Keith straight! Stephen is right.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 12, 2009 9:46 PM
Comment #281531


i remember them well. wasn’t it hal fishman that actually lived in nevada, and flew in to work every day on his private plane?

Posted by: dbs at May 12, 2009 10:24 PM
Comment #281533

dbs, I knew he was a pilot and a Cornell University alumni :) right up the road from me now and a iron man and won many awards I’m not sure where he lived though.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 12, 2009 11:44 PM
Comment #281535

I agree with Stephen.
Despite the obvious hyperbole, Olbermann does speak the truth, he does have his facts in order, and he doesn’t just blast Republicans/conservatives.

Olbermann was once quoted as saying that “I’m not a liberal, I’m an American”.

Perhaps that’s our problem.

We’ve spent too much time defining ourselves as liberals or conservatives, and not enough time defining ourselves as Americans.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 13, 2009 8:32 AM
Comment #281538

He might have many of his facts straight, Olbermann is a partisan i called Dick a flake not “The Worst person in the world” I’m not a fan of him or Brash , Even Bill O calls himself a mod IMO he’s a shill also, I think plato had it right most of the time.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 13, 2009 9:43 AM
Comment #281539

For what it is worth, the term flake imo, when used to define Cheney’s character is grossly understated. The man is a brash egotistical wealthy creep who is too weak to admit that his world views and world solutions are and were inadequate. He is old failed news that deserves no credible acknowledgment. He is struggling to build a pseudo legacy which might favor his failed policy choices. Good luck with that Dick. The sooner he excuses himself from the world picture the better off we will all be.

Posted by: RickIL at May 13, 2009 10:23 AM
Comment #281541

Strange Loop…Cheney on Face the Nation…tells Bob that he ‘took an oath to protect the American people’…spin, spin spin…he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, but since he came closer to destroying the Constitution than to protecting it, he sells citizens on his zeal to protect THEM (at the cost of the Constitution).

Is that the kind of ‘loop’ of which you speak?

Posted by: Marysdude at May 13, 2009 2:02 PM
Comment #281542

Close Gitmo?Forget about it.Release Photo’s of Tortured Enemy? Forget about it.Dick Cheny out of the Loop?Well guess who agrees with Dick Cheny?Barack Obama.Looks to me like Cheny is still running the U.S.A. HaHa.Yes we can.

Posted by: tiller at May 13, 2009 3:08 PM
Comment #281543

I suppose the better way to describe what a Strange Loop is to say that it’s a system where you move up or a hierarchy and suddenly find yourself back at the bottom of that hierarchy again.

Cheney wants to redefine the constitution in ways that cover for what he sees as its inadequacies. Having come to believe that the liberal sensibilities of restrained law enforcement, military and intelligence weakened the country against its enemies, he’s dedicated to convincing people that we have to revise our notion of what those protections mean and what their implications are to suit. He’s trying to get people to change their local perspectives on what the law means to give him and the other hawks the political breathing room to change the policy on top.

I think many changes of perspective in political forums move this way: perceptions change from the ground, and policy changes up top of certain kinds are increasingly easier.

Which is why I devote so much time to knocking down and fighting Republican’s efforts. Democrats may have control of the top down mechanisms of power, but they’re still fighting for influence over the bottom-up sentiment that gives them the freedom to operate.

I do not want the power that Democrats fought for, in order to change this country, to become merely nominal, so its important folks like us steel the spines of our politicians by getting Americans clearly on the side of opposing torture.

I don’t think it can be reiterated enough: Torture doesn’t work the way it does in the movies, on television. For one thing, it’s a convention, for another, writers nearly always know what the information the character has to say is, and makes sure the rest of the story makes good use of the convenient plot point of information. In a movie, a cop pulls a gun on a criminal and coerces information out of him, the cop finds the folks he’s looking for.

But let’s make that more interesting. Have the criminal LIE. Then have the criminal turn around and arrange an ambush for the cop he’s lied to. The cop believes the crook. After all, he had a gun to his head.

A torturer can only prevent somebody from willfully lying to them by beating the resistance out of them. And even then, the beaten out resistance can return, or be replaced by a burnt-out willingness to admit to and follow the suggestions of the torturer no matter how wrong or ridiculous.

You can say that our response to an interrogation of any kind creates a strange loop, a process of either progress reconciliation, stagnation, or growing confusion as facts come in from the results of following up on interrogations. As the situation loops back on us, a torturer still puts themself at risk of being stuck in a feedback loop built of their own theory. The problem with that is, a theory should be made to be broken, made to be put to the test and either verified to the degree that it is true, or falsified to the degree that it is not.

Torture victims will verify any claim you want. That’s why totalitarian and fascist regimes used those techniques. That’s why our enemies, the Soviets, the North Koreans, the Japanese and Nazis of WWII employed those means.

But its also why we’ve largely discarded such tactics. Though not as simple as beating the snot out of somebody, the tactics employed by our intelligence professionals beforehand worked to get people to divulge their secrets of their own free will, and to counter dishonest by making sure our enemies had no idea how much we really knew.

The Republicans are looking to have American opinion shaped to their ends, but they fail to realize that theirs is not the only influence out there to reckon with.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 13, 2009 3:45 PM
Comment #281544

Wikipedia has a cool audio file that demonstrates a strange loop:

Posted by: gergle at May 13, 2009 4:12 PM
Comment #281547

SD et al

What torture IS good for is terrorizing the population. That is its primary use globally. The intell it gains is notoriously unreliable but threatenning ones family with obcene torture is a reliable way to stiffle opposition.

I read a recent interview with George Soros in the paper. He is a pretty good prognostigator. Thats how he got so rich. He is predicting that when a global recovery occurs it will be led by Asia. He furthur predicts that China will have the most influential economy as opposed to the US economy.The US may or may not continue to have the largest economy but China will be close and the political influence of China will surpase the US because of it. What that means is that as a direct result of the failure of the Bush regime to manage the economy realistically , honestly or competently, a communist totalitarian country will achieve global leadership. One more legacy of the worst president in history.

Posted by: bills at May 14, 2009 3:37 AM
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