Yesterday we learned that almost immediately upon taking office, Defense Secretary Robert Gates attempted to persuade President Bush to close Guantanamo Bay's Camp X Ray and hold trials of detainees within the United States. Gates, with support from Secretary of State Rice, argued that Gitmo is a PR disaster that is undermining U.S. foreign policy throughout the world. As the story has been reported, VP Cheney and AG Gonzales strongly objected, and have, for now at least, prevailed. This episode thus fits a familiar storyline that goes back to 2002-2003: the moderates in the Administration (then including Colin Powell), especially at State, make their arguments, only to be tuned out because of Bush's reliance on Cheney.
Here I want to suggest a different reading: Bush is actually making these (disastrous) decisions. After all, it's not as though Bush has been doing Cheney's bidding on EVERY foreign policy question. The decision to strike a deal with North Korea is the prime example of Bush turning away from Cheney's views, and though it's hard to know what went on within the White House, it's certainly possible that Cheney also objected to the dismissal of Rumsfeld (given their longstanding connection). So, if Bush doesn't always bend to Cheney's (presumed) will, perhaps he just happens to agree with Cheney most of the time. And if that's so, Bush should get credit for not simply succumbing to his neocon svengalis. And more importantly, he should get the blame for . . . well, you know, everything.