Water Man Spouts

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dick Cheney vs the Constitution

Cheney Power Grab: Says White House Rules Don't Apply to Him By Justin Rood ABC News
Thursday 21 June 2007
"Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney. …."

The reports of Dick Cheney’s claim that the Office of the Vice President enjoys a unique status that puts it beyond the rules of law has caught many people by surprise. Journalists on CNN and MSNBC reported it as a somewhat humorous curiosity, and focused on the Constitution and jr. high school text books to attempt to define what branch of government the OVP falls under.

Of course, there is really no question based upon the definition provided by the Constitution. However, those familiar with Dick Cheney will recall from the "Iran Contra Affair: The Final Report" that then Congressman Cheney displayed a curious lack of familiarity with the Constitution. Cheney accused congress of "abusing its power" when it followed the rule of law regarding placing limits on Reagan’s investment in the Nicaraguan "contras," and stated that "the Constitution mandates the President to be the country’s foreign policy leader." (Excerpts: Majority, Minority Views of Committees; Los Angeles Times; 11-19-87) As John Dean noted, "Contrary to Cheney’s assertion, the Constitution has no such mandate." (Worse Than Watergate; page 182) Dean writes that Cheney’s thinking was formed during the Nixon-Ford years, when he came to resent congressional efforts to reinstate Constitutional oversight to dismantle the "imperial presidency." (pages 181-183)

Cheney’s efforts to advance an imperial presidency are closely related to his work in the planning for COG (Continuity of Government) in times of national crisis. We find information on this in James Bamford’s "A Pretext for War." The COG plans predate Cheney, of course; they were began during the early years of the Cold War, when there were rational concerns about running the country if there was a nuclear war between the "super powers." Those plans took on a new life after Reagan was shot, and there was a conflict within the administration regarding who was in charge. To help resolve this conflict, Bamford notes, a secret plan known as the Presidential Successor Support System was devised. It went beyond the COG plans in advocating that a "shadow government" that would be beyond the Constitution would rule the country.

Bamford writes: "Given overall responsibility for the secret government was Vice President George H. W. Bush, with Lt. Col. Oliver North, a key player in the Iran-contra scandal …. Among the key players in the shadow government were Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and James Woolsey." (page 72) This should provide some insight on Cheney’s outrage when congress investigated the Iran-contra scandals.

"The existence of the secret government," Bamford writes, "was so closely held that Congress was completely bypassed, Rather than through legislation, it was created by Top Secret presidential fiat. In fact, Congress would have no role in the new wartime administration. ‘One of the awkward questions we faced,’ said one of the participants, ‘was whether to reconstitute Congress …. It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them.’ When George H. W. Bush was elected president, he continued the program, but with the Cold War over, President Bill Clinton decided to end it." (pages 72-74)

Bamford describes how on September 11, 2001, a decision was made to place the "shadow government" in control of the United States of America. Very few people were told about this at the time: "So secret was the decision that no one in Congress – and only Vice President Cheney and a very few within the executive branch – were notified of the establishment of an invisible shadow government."

This event is also detailed in Senator Robert Byrd’s "Losing America." The Elder Statesman, who loves the Constitution of the United States, wrote: "Only hours after the September 11 attacks, the administration installed a ‘shadow government’ of about a hundred executive branch officials …. White House chief of staff Andrew Card directs the shadow government from the White House, where he is immune from giving testimony to Congress (have we heard this before?). The shadow government is supposed to assume control of the government in case of a national emergency. Of course, this shadow government consists of one branch only, the executive branch. …. Congress has not sanctioned the shadow government, nor were members of Congress even made aware of its existence until the story was leaked in March 2002. This shadow government has been described as an ‘indefinite precaution,’ which can mean anything. While a few newspaper stories appeared in March 2002, very little new information has been reported since then. The shadow government is presumed to continue its operation outside of congressional oversight." (pages 78-79)

Chapter 4 in John Dean’s book is titled "Secret Government." On pages 101-105, he details "Cheney’s Shadow National Security Council." Dean quotes the New Republic’s saying that, "Cheney’s office came to be viewed as the administration’s neocons sanctuary." President Bush’s NSC staff referred to Cheney’s operation as "the shadow government," because it was "informally integrated (with) its own agenda as well as the power to realize it through the vice president’s clout. It is a secret government – beyond the reach of Congress, and everyone else as well."

Thus, when we consider the vice president’s claim that his office is not bound by the law, it is important to consider the source of his beliefs. Is it because he did not learn enough in junior high school social studies to know that the OVP is indeed part of the executive branch? Or is it more likely that he believes that he has an authority that is beyond the Constitution of the United States, and that the congress lacks the authority to even question his secret kingdom?
If the Constitution of the United States is to mean anything in the future, then surely Congress must impeach Dick Cheney today.


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