Dick Cheney's a lame duck with a dead deer on his lawn. Dark whispers suggest that the unfortunate ungulate, which has been there for days, is just one more in a trail of victims the Vice President has left in his wake. What's next? Mysterious cattle mutilations on the White House steps? Blood-drained housepets on Air Force Two? A tremulous nation watches and waits.
But, other than the fact that he's become a walking X-File, does Mr. Cheney still matter? The answer is yes, but not because there's a dead deer on his lawn.
Although ... there is a dead deer on his lawn. Apparently the city was notified over the weekend, but nobody's come by to pick up the carcass.
What's keeping them? There haven't been any Vice Presidential shootings lately. Besides, whatever happened to courage under fire? Instead, rumor has it that the entire D.C. Animal Disposal Unit has applied to Switzerland for asylum.
Or is it some kind of bizarre decoration? Other people have deer statues on their lawn, but only the sacrifice of a flesh-and-blood creature will suffice for the Prince of Darkness.
Aw, we kid the Vice President! Obviously he bears no responsibility for the deer. But Dick Cheney still matters, and here's why: because long after he and Mr. Bush have left the White House, Mr. Cheney and friends like Donald Rumsfeld will remain in the inner circle of Republican power.
They had influence before he took office, and they'll keep it afterwards. What's more, Mr. Cheney is a walking symbol of what the Republican Party has come to represent: the abuse of power, and contempt for the truth. (Unless, of course, Mr. Cheney truly believes that Donald Rumsfeld is "the finest Secretary of Defense this nation ever had.")
That contempt also reflects itself in the belief that laws, large and small, can be broken with impunity. Illegal torture, outing intelligence officers, illegal wiretaps, deceiving congress and the country - all are beyond the reach of law as long as Cheney's cohorts remain in power. It will be interesting to see how deeply the Democrats delve into the abusive use of power in the months and years to come.
Now that Cheneyites are entering lame duck status and the Democrats control Congress, the temptation will be to dismiss them as irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. No Republican can hope to get the Party's nomination without bending the knee to the Cheney Cabal and the far right, as a groveling Sen. McCain has been so graphically demonstrating.
That mindset, and the cabal behind it, is what will be leading the GOP ticket in 2008, regardless of whose face and name are attached to the ticket. And if they win?
President John McCain will represent the Cheney cabal.
President Rudy Giuliani will represent the Cheney cabal.
President Mitt Romney will represent the Cheney cabal.
President ... oh, you get the idea.
(I've left out Chuck Hagel because I have a certain respect for the man's integrity - said integrity probably being the reason he no longer appears to have a shot at the nomination.)
Arrogant disregard for the rule of law is only one characteristic of the Cheney Cabal. Another is incompetence at the craft of governance, as exemplified by chaos in Iraq and devastation across the Gulf Coast. They fail to prevent catastrophes, and then do nothing to clear out the wreckage.
In that sense, a decomposing deer might make a potent symbol for the New GOP. It seems more apt than the slow-footed but otherwise reliable elephant. And a cloven-footed beast represents evil, as befits the Cheneyites who will rule the Republican Party for years to come.
Other than that, the deer doesn't matter. But the guy in the house behind it? He'll be with us for a long time.
A Night Light