Some Funky VP Stunts

Joan Didion did a comprehensive and revealing piece in the New York Review of Books, October 5, 2006, on the dark horse of the Bush administration….that shotgun sidewinder, our VP, Dick Cheney.

Here are a few highlights I find of keen interest.

The unitary excutive theory– What is this and where did it come from? What it is, is an inner circle radiating to the outer circle policy that whatever the administration decides to do will be declared legal even if to the rest of the world it appears and in fact violates the US constitution.

When questioned Cheney is noted for replying by saying:

1.”We believe we have all the legal authority we need”. His response to the NSA warrentless wiretapping in violation of existing statutes.

2. Author, through David Addington,  of the “torture memos” which advise the president to ignore the Geneva Convention rules on prisoner torture.

3.Also through Addington, vets every line of the federal budget to remove any wording that might restrain the president.

4.Addington under the hand of Dick Cheney also writes the infamous “signing statements” routinely issued to release the president from whatever restrictive intent might have been been present in that legislation. These statements are addendums to the actual bill and added as part of the signing act. In the past few have been aware of these statements..but with the frequent use of such in the Bush administration they have become a capital hill joke among Democrats and many moderate Republicans. In essence the president is saying the legislation does not apply to him as president, that he can violate the legislation at will. Sounds like the beginnings of sham democracy to me.

An additional note on signing statements: Signing statements are not new, but at the time Bill Clinton left office, the device had been used, by the first forty-two presidents combined, fewer than six times. George W. Bush, by contrast, issued more than eight hundred such statements during the first six years of his administrations. Critics of this enormous excess are decried as “tying the presidents hands”, erroding his ability to do his job” or “aiding those who don’t want him to do his job”.

5. Typical Cheney responses in defense of his stretches of legality.

“Bottom line is we’ve been very active and very aggressive defending the nation and using the tools at our disposal to do that.”

“Our country is at war and our government has an obligation to protect the American people from a brutal enemy that has declared war upon us.”

6. Cheney typically has been of the minset that the legislative branch of government is a massive inconvienence to governing openly objective to “checks and balances” in government. He has frequently expressed that during a time of war the president has special powers. After one year in offcie Cheney stated “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president to do his job.”

“We are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last thirty to thirty-five years,”

“Watergate-a lot of things around Wategate and Vietnam both in the 70’s served to erode the authority, I think, the President needs to be effective.”December 2005 on a flight to Oman.

7. Ignoring a court order Cheney refused to give up the notes containing the names  of attendees to an energy task force meeting held early 2001 claiming that the issue involved centered on the ability of the VP to have a conference with “citizens” to gain counsel on energy strategies for the future”. Seems innocent enough until you realize that some of the known attendees were the very rich energy execs who combined contributed $50M plus dollars to the recently won political campaign for the Republicans. It is impossible not to veiw this entire episode as an opportunity for the Bushies to scheme means to return favors for their generous contributions. Simply, the meeting, Cheney’s refusal to comply with the court order and the known attendees (Enron execs among them) doesn’t pass the smell test on any level.

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