Diana West

For precisely two hours and five minutes on the morning of July 21, 2007, there was something different about our world.

The center of gravity shifted: President George W. Bush temporarily transferred the powers of his office to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The occasion was less than earth-shaking -- a routine colonoscopy that required the president to be placed under general anesthesia. Bush underwent the same procedure back in the summer of 2002, transferring presidential powers to Cheney for the first, uneventful time.

But what a difference a second colonoscopy makes -- or so Cheney might have thought as he prepared to assume presidential powers from his vacation perch on Maryland's Eastern Shore. During the first procedure, the country was still in the patriotic throes of the early post-9/11 age. The Taliban were on the run, our mistakes in Iraq were unimagined, the president was committed to opposing -- better, destroying -- terror networks and the nations that support them. Even the president's cozy, border-lite relationship with then-president of Mexico Vicente Fox was in temporary abeyance.

Five years later, Iraq is a mess. The administration's lodestar policy of fighting terrorists has given way to free-falling "security" talks with Iran -- currently, the most malignant jihadist threat. The president's diplomatic freeze on the late, unlamented Yasser Arafat has melted into a warm embrace for Fatah, the party Arafat founded, now headed by Mahmoud Abbas, a Holocaust-denier, among other things. And who could forget the president's recent amnesty debacle? And still the borders are undefended.

Well, what could he do? Cheney must have thought. He was only a vice president. And then, suddenly, a distant ruffle of drums rose up, as if from the bay, preceding the faintest strains of "Hail to the Chief," and we dissolve to ... An aide tentatively approached Cheney. Now, according to the constitutional powers vested in someone or other ...

"Well, Mr. 'President,' said the aide, breaking his bitter reverie. "What should we do now? Settle in to watch the British Open until Mr. Bush comes to?" Mr. Cheney's eyes followed the rising arc of a bird over the water.

"I want an Executive Order form, and I want it now."


"You heard me."

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).