By now you’ve no doubt heard this amusing tidbit from the Bush administration bunker: Vice president Cheney is now arguing that his office is, has been, and should be exempt from normal executive-branch oversight of its handling of classified documents because…the vice president is not part of the executive branch!
This latest in a long line of Bush administration legal doctrines of nullification and exceptionalism is based on a hair-slender reed of constitutional fact: the vice president gets to preside over the Senate and break ties there, so he does have an odd presence in the legislative branch. But saying that the entire office is simply not part of the executive is desperate madness.
Democrats in Congress sound like they’re ready to call Cheney on his bluff. Atrios posts an email reporting Rahm Emanuel’s response:
“The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules…”
That’s got some teeth. But beyond this immediate parry-and-riposte, surely we are at a jump-the-shark moment for the Bush administration’s tortuous legal arguments defending secrecy, deception and torture.
The GOP spent many years mocking Bush’s predecessor for his lawyerly tactics during the Lewinsky affair. But a U.S. vice president claiming that he is not part of the executive branch? That makes quarrels over “what the meaning of ‘is’ is” look like the soul of reason. Does the vice-presidency exist in its own special branch? Does the office mutate by the moment from “executive” to “legislative” depending on who Cheney is fighting? Ahh — the Bush administration’s very own Transformer from Cybertron!
All his life, from his Vietnam era draft avoidance (“I had other priorities”) to this latest shenanigans, Cheney has held himself at an imperious remove from the demands our society and legal system place on mere mortals. It is past time to call him out on such behavior. De-fund the clown!
[tags]dick cheney, vice presidency, constitution[/tags]
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