The dictatorial conception of leadership

Barton Gellman writes a rather hagiographic piece (functionally, if not by intent) on Dick Cheney in the Washington Post this morning. In that sense, it is pretty typical of the majority of mainstream press coverage of the man and his tenure as VP and isn’t of much value.

But there are a couple of passages which, if one assumes they are accurate portrayals (and I do assume that), reveal a mindset that is distinctly authoritarian or dictatorial as regards how government ought to operate and how it ought to stand in relationship to citizens.

He’d [President Bush] showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”

…But there is a sting in Cheney’s critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end.

These notions do not reflect what we normally consider ought to be the relationship a leader of a representative democracy imagines ideal between himself/herself and the citizens who placed him in office.  Rather, they are notions that we would imagine to reside in someone who is interested only in gaining or maintaining power and which he might then wield with zero regard for the popular will and with absolutely no sense of a responsibility to be honest or forthright or accountable to the citizens.

From such an “understanding” of the proper role of a leader, it is immediately obvious that propaganda operations will define or mandate all communications between that leader and the citizens of such a state, of the press, of Congress and of the courts.  Secrecy, pervasive stone-walling, purposeful deceits and obstruction of Justice Department or other investigations will mark how such a leader will operate.

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