A Vice President Without Borders, Bordering on Lunacy
By MAUREEN DOWD
It’s hard to imagine how Dick Cheney could get more dastardly, unless J. K. Rowling has him knock off Harry Potter next month.
Harry’s cloak of invisibility would be no match for Vice’s culture of invisibility.
I’ve always thought Cheney was way out there — the most Voldemort-like official I’ve run across. But even in my harshest musings about the vice president, I never imagined that he would declare himself not only above the law, not only above the president, but actually his own dark planet — a separate entity from the White House.
I guess a man who can wait 14 hours before he lets it dribble out that he shot his friend in the face has no limit on what he thinks he can keep secret. Still, it’s quite a leap to go from hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the capital to hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the Constitution.
Dr. No used to just blow off the public and Congress as he cooked up his shady schemes. Now, in a breathtaking act of arrant arrogance, he’s blowing off his own administration.
Henry Waxman, the California congressman who looks like an accountant and bites like a pit bull, is making the most of Congress’s ability, at long last, to scrutinize Cheney’s chicanery.
On Thursday, Mr. Waxman revealed that after four years of refusing to cooperate with the government unit that oversees classified documents, the vice president tried to shut down the unit rather than comply with the law ensuring that sensitive data is protected. The National Archives appealed to the Justice Department, but who knows how much justice there is at Justice, now that the White House has so blatantly politicized it?
Cheney’s office denied doing anything wrong, but Cheney’s office is also denying it’s an office. Tricky Dick Deuce declared himself exempt from a rule that applies to everyone else in the executive branch, instructing the National Archives that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch” and therefore is not subject to presidential executive orders.
“It’s absurd, reflecting his view from the first day he got into office that laws don’t apply to him,” Representative Waxman told me. “The irony is, he’s taking the position that he’s not part of the executive branch.”
Ah, if only that were true. Then maybe W. would be able to close Gitmo, which Vice has insisted he not do. And Condi wouldn’t have to worry every night that she’ll wake up to find crazy Dick bombing Iran, whispering to W. that they have to do it before that weak sister Hillary takes over.
“Your decision to exempt your office from the president’s order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk,” Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Cheney.
Of course, it’s doubtful, now that Vice has done so much to put our national security at risk, that he’ll suddenly listen to reason.
Cheney and Cheney’s Cheney, David Addington, his equally belligerent, ideological and shadowy lawyer and chief of staff, have no shame. After claiming executive privilege to withhold the energy task force names and protect Scooter Libby, they now act outraged that Vice should be seen as part of the executive branch.
Cheney, they argue, is the president of the Senate, so he’s also part of the legislative branch. Vice is casting himself as a constitutional chimera, an extralegal creature with the body of a snake and the head of a sea monster. It’s a new level of gall, to avoid accountability by saying you’re part of a legislative branch that you’ve spent six years trying to weaken.
But gall is the specialty of Addington, who has done his best to give his boss the powers of a king. He was the main author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects, and he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission. He led the fights supporting holding terrorism suspects without access to courts and against giving Congress and environmentalists access to information about the energy industry big shots who secretly advised Cheney on energy policy.
Dana Perino, a White House press spokeswoman, had to go out on Friday and defend Cheney’s bizarre contention that he is his own government. “This is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate,” she said.
I love that Cheney was able to bully Colin Powell, Pentagon generals and George Tenet when drumming up his fake case for war, but when he tried to push around the little guys, the National Archive data collectors — I’m visualizing dedicated “We the People” wonky types with glasses and pocket protectors — they pushed back.
Archivists are the new macho heroes of Washington.