Cheney Claims VP’s Office Not in Executive Branch (2 Updates)

You read right. Where dies he think it is, Constitutionally speaking? He doesn’t say.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s office refused to cooperate with an agency that oversees classified documents, then tried to abolish the office when it challenged the actions, House oversight committee Chairman Henry Waxman said.

The National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office is charged by presidential order with ensuring that classified information and documents are properly handled by executive branch agencies.

According to a letter from William Leonard, director of the oversight office, Cheney’s office argued it did not meet the definition of an executive branch agency and therefore was exempt.

When Leonard unsurprisingly refused to accept this absurd interpretation, Cheney threatened to abolish the ISOO altogether, claiming there’s a “presidential order under consideration” right now that would do just that.

It’s all about making sure nobody can see – ever – Bush Administration documents that Cheney wants only loyal Bushies who can be trusted to a) keep their mouths shut, or b) twist whatever they find in the presidential papers to reflect the party line. In the background is the Bush Library to be built at SMU.

I said when I heard that Rove was putting himself in position to run it that Bush and Chenry intended to make it a propaganda outlet with severe restrictions as to who could see what, and that historians were going to go postal when they discovered that only Bush Republicans, tame GOP hacks, and the most extreme of tame neoconservative whackos would be allowed to see the “secret files”.

Meaning the only files open to genuine historians will be of the “what the president had for breakfast” and “presidential golf scores while on vacation” variety.

But the bald arrogance displayed by the patent silliness of his justification is breath-taking. It’s as if he’s reached the point where he believes he’s so powerful, so untouchable, so god-like unreachable that his explanations don’t have to make even the slightest, most casual sense. As if he could just as easily have said he doesn’t have to obey the law because the Great Golden Mouse appeared to him in a dream and told him he didn’t have to, and that we should consider that explanation Good Enough.

That’s our dictatorial VP’s “unitary executive” in action: a few words denoting his Imperial wishes are all that’s needed to gut the entire section of the Constitution dealing with the Executive Branch: the VP isn’t part of it any more because the VP says so and his puppet prez will sign an order to that affect whenever L’il Dick tells him to.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, take a gander at the responses:

  • Henry Waxman thinks Cheney’s unilateral disembowelment of the Constitution is “problematic because it could place national security at risk.” WTF?! Uh, Henry? How about because it puts the Constitution at risk?
  • When Leonard tried to audit the VP’s office to make a determination – legally mandated -if the VP was handling documents properly, he was thrown out of the office. When he wrote asking why the VP wasn’t willing to comply with the law, Cheney’s COS, David Addington, handed him the “my VP ain’t no stinkin’ executive” line and dismissed him. Leonard responded by expressing concern that such a legal stance “could impede access to classified information by the OVP staff….”

Are you guys kidding with that shit? The Vice President of the United States declares he isn’t part of the Executive Branch and can do anything he damn well pleases without oversight or interference, fuck the Constitution, and all you’re worried about is “national security” (gimme a break) and your potential loss of access?

Absolutely stunning. We are at this stage so apparently inured to monomaniacal statements of supreme power coming out of the mouths of this Admin’s chief members that we don’t even notice them any more. They excite no comment, much less dismay and/or anger.

I reckon it’s time for the Democrats to have to admit that between Bush’s “signing statements” declaring the law doesn’t apply to him and Cheney’s arbitrary and unilateral re-writing of the Constitution whenever he feels like it, never mind all the rest of it – secret prison systems, Americans being “disappeared”, massive electronic eavesdropping programs, illegal wars and illegal detentions, the casual destruction of rights like habeus corpus, and on and on and on – the “Constitutional crisis” they’ve been trying to avoid is already on us and has been for at least 3 years.

Get off your asses. Impeach the bastards. These guys are why the Founders created impeachment. For chrissake, use it.

Update 6/23/07: My pessimism in thinking this was going to be ignored as so many other similar statements by Cheney and the Bushies have been was, for once, unfounded. Last night it was a Big Story on NPR’s ATC -which was nothing short of shocking – and today it’s everywhere.

* Eli at Firedoglake has a nice round-up you can start with, including a precious quote from Rahm Emanuel, of all people, and a nail-in-the-coffin quote from a Constitutional scholar.

“Here’s a guy who raises ‘executive privilege’ to historic levels to exempt himself from all rules and oversight, and now he says he’s not part of the executive branch?” said [Berkeley Constitutional scholar Gordon] Silverstein. “Here we have a subordinate part of the executive branch asserting independent constitutional authority even against its own superior. It is flabbergasting.”

* The Mahablog‘s Barbara O’Brien tries giving Cheney a 6th-grade-level lesson in Civics, but I’m not too sure but what even that is over his head.Dick:

There are three branches of government. Those are the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Constitution puts the Vice President’s office in the executive branch. If you aren’t part the executive branch, then what branch do you think you are in?

* Digby reminds everyone that Josh Marshal picked up this story five2 months ago, a lot of progressive bloggers were all over it and the media ignored it. Now it’s a “big story”?

Granted, it’s unreasonable for me to think that any reporters read this blog, but many of them read Josh Marshall and certainly they must have read the story in US News that followed the original item several days later. It evoked a huge yawn and the rest of us finally gave up. Apparently nobody cares that the Vice president doesn’t even believe her has to comply with presidential executive orders. Personally, I find that odd, and if I had been a reporter I might have asked the president if he thinks the VP answers to him or not.

* Steve Benen notes that the reasons are obvious but even for this gang, Cheney’s off the map.

Look, I can appreciate the fact that the White House is in a jam here. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the gang repeatedly mishandled classified materials during a time of war, got caught, ignored their own rules, and is now struggling to rationalize their conduct. When the federal agency responsible for oversight tried to do its job, the Vice President reportedly tried to abolish the agency. This isn’t a fact-pattern that’s easy to spin.

But the explanations thus far have been transparently ridiculous, up to and including the notion that the Vice President, as defined in Article II of the Constitution, isn’t actually part of the executive branch of government.

As for the MSM, it’s toeing a thin line, by-and-large concentrating on it as part of the on-going power struggle by Cheney to keep everything he does secret.

* The WaPo’s Peter Baker tries “putting it in context” – as usual, a euphemism for ducking the main issue and avoiding calling a spade a, you know, spade.

The dispute centers on a relatively obscure process but underscores a wider struggle waged in the past 6 1/2 years over Cheney’s penchant for secrecy. Since becoming vice president, he has fought attempts to peer into the inner workings of his office, shielding an array of information such as the names of industry executives who advised his energy task force, costs and other details about his travel, and Secret Service logs showing who visits his office or official residence.

The aggressive efforts to protect the operations of his staff have usually pitted Cheney against lawmakers, interest groups or media organizations, sometimes going all the way to the Supreme Court. But the fight about classified information regulation indicates that the vice president has resisted oversight even by other parts of the Bush administration.

A quick scan of several other papers – including the NYT and, surprising to me, the Globe – suggests that most of the MSM is doing what it did before: ignoring the whole thing in favor of coverage of the newly released Red Herring Papers, wherein the Bush Admin hopes to avoid scrutiny for a few days by turning the attention of our ADD-laced media onto some 40-yr-old antics by the CIA in which a major right-wing bugaboo – Kennedy – figures prominently.

Call this one: Enabling enablers enable.

Update 2: Tony Snow stand-in Dana Perino defended L’il Dick’s out-where-the-buses-don’t-run proclamation of untouchability by calling it a “non-issue” and explaining that the Emperor never thought the Exec Order he signed applied to either of them.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Cheney is not obligated to submit to oversight by an office that safeguards classified information, as other members and parts of the executive branch are. Cheney’s office has contended that it does not have to comply because the vice president serves as president of the Senate, which means that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

“This is a little bit of a nonissue,” Perino said at a briefing dominated by the issue. Cheney is not subject to the executive order, she said, “because the president gets to decide whether or not he should be treated separately, and he’s decided that he should.”

Their arrogance is getting more and more bald, just like I said. Now the WH PR flack thinks nothing of asserting that Bush gets to do anything he wants, including open;ly flouting laws he signed, just because he says so. When the PR flack is that open about it, it means they’re not bothering even to pretend they aren’t monarchists any more. The Imperial Presidency is now openly dictatorial in everything but name. If you’ve got a legitimate solution to this short of impeachment, which the Dems WILL NOT DO, we’d sure like to hear it.

2 responses to “Cheney Claims VP’s Office Not in Executive Branch (2 Updates)

  1. Get off your asses.

    If only.

    Go listen to Grace Lee Boggs and tell me what you think of what she says.

  2. let them eat future-written history

    good news: Cheney is now correct. He’s no longer part of the executive branch.

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