In spring 2005, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were beginning their second term in office. They were expending some “political capital,” as Bush put it, advancing their Social Security reform plan.
Cheney came to the Orange County Register to meet with the editorial board, of which I was a member. For several days before, the Secret Service scoured our building with dogs and electronic devices. We gave them our Social Security numbers for background checks. On the Big Day, the fifth floor, where our editorial board met, was completely evacuated for several hours, to be scoured one last time. Only those attending the meeting were allowed back onto the floor, after going through an airport-style metal detector.
This was a sharp contrast to our meeting with Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992. The Secret Service came a couple of days earlier, took our Social Security numbers, and looked around. But there were no dogs. And on the day of the meeting, Quayle simply came up with his Secret Service detail and met with us. The contrast reflected the vast changes in American society during the Global War on Terror and the expansion of the imperial vice presidency under Cheney.
I wanted to ask Cheney about the Iraq war. But all questions were restricted to Social Security and the administration’s...