The Vice President Wages 'Lawfare'

Have you heard about "lawfare"? It's a post-9-11 Bush administration "strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective," according to a fascinating piece by Scott Horton in the July issue of Harper's magazine. Horton's work comes to us just as we are being were reminded that Vice President Dick Cheney's office is engaged in its own form of "lawfare" -- against Congress, the National Archives, the Justice Department and even Cheney's boss, President Bush.

How? Well, the super-secret (and super-arrogant) folks at the Office of the Vice President are refusing to comply with Executive Order 12958 by claiming that the House of Cheney is not "an entity within the executive branch" for purposes of inspection by the folks at the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives.

The executive order is designed to ensure that national security information remains secret and classified for as long as possible. It is not a particularly controversial measure -- except, apparently, to the same folks who brought us I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and helped to "out" former CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

For three years now, Cheney's office has refused to comply with the directive. Moreover, after the National Archives folks ran to the Justice Department with their complaint about the Veep's lack of cooperation, Cheney and Company simply tried to excise the order out of existence.

Nice. You can call that politics. You can call that hardball. I call it lawfare. The vice president's office is flagrantly misusing the law, and then threatening the people trying to enforce it, to achieve its objective -- which is to protect itself from vital and well-tried oversight functions from within its own branch of government.

The ugly topic came up this week when Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the Chairman of the Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives, sent an open letter to Cheney asking him to answer some questions about the matter. And while we all are waiting for the vice president's response -- think of how delicately Cheney handled his dispute with Sen. Patrick Leahy a few years ago -- we also are waiting for the Justice Department to chime in with its legal opinion about the legitimacy of an argument that places the vice president's office outside of the executive branch. It has now been six months since the National Archives first asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for help in the matter.

I have no idea where this fight heads next. I don't expect Gonzales to do anything to push the vice president into compliance -- why would anyone expect this attorney general to stand up to this vice president? Nor do I expect the President Bush to do anything about it despite his repeated public statements about the need for better control over national security information. If the president were interested in taking Cheney down a notch, he long ago would have. The federal courts? They aren't likely to get involved, at least in the short term.

And Congress? Well, Waxman is at least trying, and by trying he is shedding valuable light on this scandal. The more people learn about the extent to which our government is willing to wage lawfare -- even on itself -- the better off we'll be.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 21, 2007; 4:33 PM ET
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Comments

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What in it world will it take for people to care about what this adminstration is doing to the Constitution and the rule of law?

Posted by: kmblue | June 22, 2007 09:13 AM

Honesty and open government do not seem to be valued much by this administration. They publicly disdain the very office in which they hold, but its become clear to all of us that they do not hold our public trust. We went through 8 years of news "hell" over Clinton's personal exploits, and here we have a President/Vice President who are twisting the Constitution to their own ends of pure power plays....if impeachment should have ever been used, now is the time. God help us all get to 2009.

Posted by: Suzanne | June 22, 2007 09:56 AM

"Lawfare" -- using the letter of the law to break the spirit of the law. Another example of the "Through the Looking Glass" aspect of the Bush Crime Family, where "a word means whatever I say it means."

I noticed in 2003 how everything they said was the exact OPPOSITE to the truth. I'm sure the astute people who read Cohen and Froomkin also glom that. To truly understand what Cheney and cronies mean, turn it around 180 degrees. What I wonder is when enough of the rest of the American population, especially the lickspittle mainstream media, will reach this conclusion.

BTW, the article on the link that Cohen cites portrays the U.S. military as potential VICTIMS of "lawfare." This is another tactic of right-wingers, especially hardcore Christians. Wife-beaters do it too. When you're the oppressor, portray yourself as the victim. Then you can excuse any cruelty you do as self-defence.

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | June 22, 2007 10:22 AM

Seemingly respectable people can be ingeniously twisted, eh Bukko?

Posted by: Cy | June 22, 2007 12:04 PM

If he claims his office is outside the executive branch, isn't he nullifying all his prior claims of executive privilege?

Posted by: Gabriel Fry | June 22, 2007 12:52 PM

Still another example of the corruption the rampant in the Bush white house. Bush will not do anything to force Cheney to comply. Sometimes it seems that Bush is working for Cheney and not the american People. Gonzales is in the pocket of both Bush and Cheney and won't even go to the bathroom without their OK. Have Gonzales in vestigate is a waste of time and money. None of the people infesting the white house have any love for this country or it's citizens. They have only love for a few of their corperate friends. Foreign and domistic, but not the American people. We can not count on Congree to be of help. They will just cave in again as before.

Posted by: Rob | June 22, 2007 12:58 PM

Still another example of the corruption the rampant in the Bush white house. Bush will not do anything to force Cheney to comply. Sometimes it seems that Bush is working for Cheney and not the american People. Gonzales is in the pocket of both Bush and Cheney and won't even go to the bathroom without their OK. Have Gonzales in vestigate is a waste of time and money. None of the people infesting the white house have any love for this country or it's citizens. They have only love for a few of their corperate friends. Foreign and domistic, but not the American people. We can not count on Congree to be of help. They will just cave in again as before.

Posted by: Rob | June 22, 2007 12:58 PM

Still another example of the corruption the rampant in the Bush white house. Bush will not do anything to force Cheney to comply. Sometimes it seems that Bush is working for Cheney and not the american People. Gonzales is in the pocket of both Bush and Cheney and won't even go to the bathroom without their OK. Have Gonzales in vestigate is a waste of time and money. None of the people infesting the white house have any love for this country or it's citizens. They have only love for a few of their corperate friends. Foreign and domistic, but not the American people. We can not count on Congree to be of help. They will just cave in again as before.

Posted by: Rob | June 22, 2007 12:58 PM

Still another example of the corruption the rampant in the Bush white house. Bush will not do anything to force Cheney to comply. Sometimes it seems that Bush is working for Cheney and not the american People. Gonzales is in the pocket of both Bush and Cheney and won't even go to the bathroom without their OK. Have Gonzales in vestigate is a waste of time and money. None of the people infesting the white house have any love for this country or it's citizens. They have only love for a few of their corperate friends. Foreign and domistic, but not the American people. We can not count on Congree to be of help. They will just cave in again as before.

Posted by: Rob | June 22, 2007 12:58 PM

Still another example of the corruption the rampant in the Bush white house. Bush will not do anything to force Cheney to comply. Sometimes it seems that Bush is working for Cheney and not the american People. Gonzales is in the pocket of both Bush and Cheney and won't even go to the bathroom without their OK. Have Gonzales in vestigate is a waste of time and money. None of the people infesting the white house have any love for this country or it's citizens. They have only love for a few of their corperate friends. Foreign and domistic, but not the American people. We can not count on Congree to be of help. They will just cave in again as before.

Posted by: Rob | June 22, 2007 12:58 PM

Not only does that eliminate executive privilege, it also invalidates any budgetary support. If Snarlin' Dick and his staff are not in the executive branch, they have no legal right to be paid or have any office facilities funded out of the executive budget.

They could ask the Congress to fund those salaries etc., but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

They are the very model of a modern NGO.

Posted by: Jim Quinn | June 22, 2007 12:59 PM

Everyone in government seems to think that they are above the law. Or, since they can change it at will, that they are the law. The attitude is obvious everywhere in Congress, the Supreme Court and the Executive branches. The current regime is simply the most blatant about throwing it into our face and daring the American public to do anything about it.

Posted by: D in Jax | June 22, 2007 01:03 PM

Excellent point Jim. But does anyone other than Dennis Kucinich have the stones to call them out on that, or will this just lead to a lot of harumphing from Congress and no action? Won't anybody in a position to bring the hammer down stand up to this guy and take this stuff seriously?

Posted by: Gabriel Fry | June 22, 2007 01:08 PM

Great article and a great tag name "Lawfare" to describe a complicated political/legal maneuver by our public servant Cheney.

And Waxman rocks! He just keeps pushing. American has no better patriot than the man shining a flashlight in the shadows of government.

Posted by: Sully | June 22, 2007 01:12 PM

Yet another example of the slow-motion constitutional crisis this country is undergoing. The root of it is this administration's decision to systematically ignore the law, then dare anyone to do anything about it. It's bullying at it's worst and it's working.

It's working because our system seems unable to deal with a branch of government that thumbs it's nose at the constitution. This administration has figured out that if they stay on the offensive, never give an inch and fight like hell, no one has the resolve to stand up to them.

The Bush administration has fundamentally changed the rules, written and unwritten, of how our form of government is supposed to work. The opposition has consistently underestimated the extremes to which the Bushies will go and the conventional rules of fair play leave the rest of us grasping for ways to fight back.

It's maddening and it's going to set back this country for decades to come.

Posted by: jrw | June 22, 2007 01:19 PM

Just another example of the Bush administration acting more like a crime family than a legitimate government. This administration consistently, across the board, acts in a manner that is unconstitutional, (see the many offspring of the unitary executive or prez as king theory), illegal, and then lies and covers up, (including lying under oath and obstruction of justice).
At the heart of it all is a decision taken at the very start of the administration to replace the fact based model of federal policy making, using facts and analysis, dominated by career, nonpartisan civil servants with an agenda implementation process. This process was driven by religious faith, ideological zeal, and political opportunism. The administration was staffed with political hacks with little or no relevant experience in government, most of them lobbyists from the industries that the agencies were to monitor. In foreign policy, The neocons took over, ignoring the warnings of a host of conservative republican and democrats alike that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster waiting to happen. This administration has done what no terrorist could ever have forced us to do: turn our backs on our laws, our principles, our traditions. The president and his supporters have divided the country by using the attacks of 9-11 to pursue their preexisting policy agenda in a manner that has been completely counterproductive. The middle east is a witches brew of civil war, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, death and destruction, as never before. Iran's influence in the region grows every day. Our own CIA reports that our policies in Iraq have fostered a world wide surge in recruiting for terror organizations around the world. Our military is stressed beyond the breaking point. Congressional oversight reveals new instances of the Bush administration's illegal activities and lying to the Congress and the public with each passing day. The public needs to prepare itself for the need to hold the senior leadership of this administration legally accountable for a long string of criminal behavior..... once the current president is no longer in a position to pardon himself and his fellow criminals and the Democrats expand their margins of control in both chambers of Congress. The very fate of our democratic form of government requires that we demonstrate that no one is above the law.
And it is long past time for Republicans to prove that their loyalty to the Constitution is greater than their loyalty to criminals that happen to be of their own political party.

Posted by: nate in appleton | June 22, 2007 01:30 PM

To the people who voted for Bush, you should be sent to the prison in Guantanamo and tortured for your blatant stupidity.

Posted by: dimbulb | June 22, 2007 01:32 PM

political researchers from 2107 will marvel at how venal this man is and how incredibly idiotic and apathetic the ignorant amurkkkin public seems to be.

we are easily misled, mr. and mrs. joe public, and darth knows it, in fact, he and turdblossom cherish this quality in us because that alone is what protects them.

congratulations for having this administration, those who voted R especially, you must be proud.

Posted by: pre-Amerikkkan | June 22, 2007 02:00 PM

Thank heavens for someone like Henry Waxman whose career has been devoted to keeping those in power -govt, business, etc.- accountable to the people. If there is one man in Washington who isn't looking to cut a deal to move ahead and actually represent the people, it is him. His isnt a witchhunt, it is justice.

Posted by: New York | June 22, 2007 02:17 PM

To Nate of Appleton:

I agree wholeheartedly with the need to prosecute the illegal and unconstitutional behavior of senior officials of the Bush Administration (most notably Cheney, Rove and Gonzalez) even after January 20, 2009. It would be important to do this to prevent their kind of behavior in any future Presidential Administration--Republican, Democratic or Independent.

My question is how can we get the U.S. Justice System under the next President to remain sufficiently motivated to do this after the long antcipated end of the Bush Administration? As you well know, President Ford pardoned President Nixon so that the country could "move on" after Watergate. Although he was severely criticized at the time, his decision now is generally regarded as having been the right one to permit the nation to "heal".

So how can we provide the hard lessons to prevent ever having the likes of Cheney, Rove and Gonazlez (among others) in future Administrations while moving on and permitting the country to heal after the blessed day January 20, 2009 finally arrives?

Posted by: Bartone Couchet | June 22, 2007 02:19 PM

If the vice president is not part of the executive office(counterintuitive claim but the only real responsibility is as president of the senate) then why is Cheney able to claim Executive privelege regarding the the members of his energy task force or anything else for that matter?

Posted by: Tom C. H. | June 22, 2007 02:20 PM

Ha I was looking up the spelling of schizophrenia, and found the word of the day is
countervail \kown-tur-VAYL\, transitive verb:
1. To act against with equal force, power, or effect; to counteract.
2. To compensate for; to offset; to furnish or serve as an equivalent to.

Here is an example: VP Cheney passion for secrecy countervails Condi Rice's passion for diplomacy.

However, the definition for schizophrenia is also interesting.

schiz·o·phre·ni·a /ˌskɪtsəˈfriniə, -ˈfrinyə/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[skit-suh-free-nee-uh, -freen-yuh] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
-noun 1. Psychiatry. Also called dementia praecox. a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations.
2. a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.

Here is an example:
A situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities: the national schizophrenia that results from carrying out an unpopular war.

I did not make up this example, it comes from www.dictionary.com

Thus, one question that springs to mind: Is Dick Cheney mentally fit to be in office?

Posted by: Richard Morris | June 22, 2007 02:23 PM

The most direct way for Congress to address this situation is through the bill appropriating funds for the Executive Office of the President, through which staff reporting to the Vice President are paid. The relevant Congressional Democrats would be Sen. Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Serrano (D-NY), the chairmen of the appropriations subcommittees of jurisdiction. We'll see what happens.

Posted by: Zathras | June 22, 2007 02:25 PM

Mr Cheney, Bush and the whole Natzi regime needs run out of this country, before the stupid American people let them take over.
They don't want anything but a NEW WORLD ORDER, and they're proving that by cutting up the Constitution to where it benifits them. We have lost so many Constitutional Rights since this Hitler Squad took over, and we will loose the rest of them unless the American people WAKE UP. Bush (Hitler) has singed into law that he can suspend elections during wartime and that will be all him and his cronies will need to put everything into place. He already has made the statement that this is HIS government.
So people you had better wake up, NOW.

Posted by: Vic Bailey | June 22, 2007 02:42 PM

Barton : The only way to build support for eventual criminal prosecutions for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al is to continue to presure the Congress and the media to follow up with investigations across the board on the law breaking of this gang. Moderates, especially GOP moderates need to be educated on the fact that this is in NO WAY business as usual. This administration has broken with the traditions of the conservative movement, (Smaller government, limited government, strict limits on the police powers of the state, a foreign policy based on national interests.... Not theories of radical transformation of the world, support for the military) and the traditional values (pre 1980) of the GOP. The GOP was transformed in the 80s and 90s as the hard core racists and bigots of the South flowed into the GOP, joined later by millions of white fundamentalists who were formerly either apolitical or voted Democratic for Economic reasons. Moderate GOPs from the upper mid west and the north east and the pacific northwest need to be convinced that what Bush represents is a fundamental threat to our form of government. That will isolate support for blocking criminal action against Bush et al to the hard core base of the party.... poorly educated, white, fundamentalist voters driven by non rational decision making: ideology, nationalism, racism, religion, and partisan political loyalty that trumps support for the rule of law and the Constitution. There has to be a broad, bipartisan commitment to reinforcing the rule of law. It will fail if it is seen as political score settling.

Posted by: nate in appleton | June 22, 2007 02:53 PM

Once again, Zathras gets to the crux of the solution.

There should be very lively hearings on the EOP funding, which of course includes the VP's office.

Posted by: heh | June 22, 2007 03:02 PM

Nate, I would second Bartone's comments--I think you summarize the current situation well.

I don't know what the best answer is here in pragmatic terms. I would be happy to trade 18 more months of Team George W. Bush, throw in an absolution for any possible criminal misdeeds, in exchange for a James Baker presidency for the remainder of his term. Actually, I suspect many Americans--Republican, Independent, and Democrat might go for this.

However, I think the members of this administration are probably making a decent gamble delaying and obfuscating until 2009 at which point Americans are going to want to pretend that it didn't happen, and can we just move along? In the meantime the GOP will get its clock cleaned in 2008, and some incredibly dangerous precedents will have been set on a firmer foundation for future use and abuse.

There still are some quality leaders in Washington--although they are in a decided minority within the majority party. At the end of the day we get the leadership we deserve. American voters need to raise the bar--especially those who voted for George W. Bush twice. You folks were played for fools. Figure out why. Live, learn, and make a wiser chose the next time around.

Posted by: JP2 | June 22, 2007 03:04 PM

Btw, I think it's beyond a shadow of a doubt that Cheney is suffering from the effects of "Pump Head". He is consistently evidencing the type of decision making that a person might make with a severly oxygen-deprived brain.

Of course, George W. Bush is once again predictably behind the curve and the last guy in the room to notice.

Posted by: JP2 | June 22, 2007 03:08 PM

I now believe that the key to justice for this corrupt administration is getting rid of Alberto Gonzales. Unfortunately, whenever Bush/Cheney et al. commit a crime, as in the current case with Cheney, it's the responsibility of the Department of Justice to investigate; this means, of course, absolutely nothing will happen. I now understand why Gonzales wears a permanent smirk on his face: Bush dare not fire him.

Posted by: Gardenia | June 22, 2007 03:14 PM

I think we should start referring to the administration as The Black House -- for all disrepute they are bring to the presidential office and for the utter lack of information available from there...

What ever happened to Sunshine the best disinfectant and open government attitudes. Its a tragic shame that the govt is this bad....

Posted by: Houston | June 22, 2007 03:15 PM

I do believe we have reached the point where this administraion could accurately be described as a Criminal Enterprise and investigated under the federal RICO law (this law is used to fight organized crime)

Of course, we are well past the point where impeachment proceedings against bush and cheney should have been started.

Both bush and cheney would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:20 PM

I do believe we have reached the point where this administraion could accurately be described as a Criminal Enterprise and investigated under the federal RICO law (this law is used to fight organized crime)

Of course, we are well past the point where impeachment proceedings against bush and cheney should have been started.

Both bush and cheney would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:20 PM

I do believe we have reached the point where this administraion could accurately be described as a Criminal Enterprise and investigated under the federal RICO law (this law is used to fight organized crime)

Of course, we are well past the point where impeachment proceedings against bush and cheney should have been started.

Both bush and cheney would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:20 PM

I do believe we have reached the point where this administraion could accurately be described as a Criminal Enterprise and investigated under the federal RICO law (this law is used to fight organized crime)

Of course, we are well past the point where impeachment proceedings against bush and cheney should have been started.

Both bush and cheney would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:20 PM

I do believe we have reached the point where this administraion could accurately be described as a Criminal Enterprise and investigated under the federal RICO law (this law is used to fight organized crime)

Of course, we are well past the point where impeachment proceedings against bush and cheney should have been started.

Both bush and cheney would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:20 PM

I believe we are at the point where we can safely say this administration is operating like a criminal enterprise and should be investigated under the RICO law.
(the RICO law is used by the feds to prosecute organized crime)

We are well past the point where impeachment proceedings should have been initiated against both bush and cheney.

Both of these guys would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:50 PM

I believe we are at the point where we can safely say this administration is operating like a criminal enterprise and should be investigated under the RICO law.
(the RICO law is used by the feds to prosecute organized crime)

We are well past the point where impeachment proceedings should have been initiated against both bush and cheney.

Both of these guys would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:50 PM

I believe we are at the point where we can safely say this administration is operating like a criminal enterprise and should be investigated under the RICO law.
(the RICO law is used by the feds to prosecute organized crime)

We are well past the point where impeachment proceedings should have been initiated against both bush and cheney.

Both of these guys would have felt right at home in Germany in 1938.

Posted by: jim watters | June 22, 2007 03:50 PM

"Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."
Louis D. Brandeis

Posted by: Kevin O. | June 22, 2007 03:53 PM

If the VP's office claims that it need not comply with this law because it is part of the Legislative branch, then shouldn't the secrecy rules of the legislative branch apply to him? Doesn't the legislative branch have rules governing how it handles confidential information? And why, then, does he still get to claim executive privilege? He's either part of one branch or the other. He can't have it both ways.

Posted by: | June 22, 2007 04:05 PM

Nate:It's not just the religious right. Do you know many of the doctrines which those educated in the liberal arts and social "sciences" in the last 25 years have been exposed to? Critical thinking, facts, analysis aren't necessary, replaced by effective techniques (not to mention a visual and reactive basis assumed as cognition), and as long as faceless "pragmatic" action and end results are held in the US as the ultimate criterion--misguidedly--what you say will continue to be a vulnerability.

Posted by: Ted | June 22, 2007 04:23 PM

Anon. 4:05 PM, you hit on one aspect of this. As Waxman pointed out--if Cheney gets his security clearance as an extension of his Executive function; he can't then declare that he fits into some special category. The justifications don't even begin to wash.

Oh wait, there goes David Rivkin, telling us: "The office of the vice president really is unique," Rivkin said. "It's not an agency. It's an extension of the vice president himself." And apparently so is Rivkin.

Posted by: JP2 | June 22, 2007 04:31 PM

Ted, could you spell out what you mean by:
"Critical thinking, facts, analysis aren't necessary, replaced by effective techniques (not to mention a visual and reactive basis assumed as cognition), and as long as faceless "pragmatic" action and end results are held in the US as the ultimate criterion--misguidedly--what you say will continue to be a vulnerability."

Posted by: JP2 | June 22, 2007 04:36 PM

Jp2, yes this precedent crap. When junk gets rammed through on false pretenses or a different context, as has been increasingly been done in the last three decades, why are we just stuck with it? And in the meantime, lawyers and judges of the appropriate persuasion use the new law as a foundation to push the agenda inexorably further, while the legislation becomes a mandated basis of "social change" through other media, so that the BS legislation then becomes accepted and a new norm. Certainly don't trust in the Supreme Court to strike it down, after the off chance that they even choose to review after the time such legislation takes to get to them. In the meantime, the various self-interested channels work to make it publicly accepted (increasingly not hard to do in the US for obvious reasons)

Posted by: Anton | June 22, 2007 04:39 PM

JP2: To indicate, for instance, the whole scale assault on objectivity post Mcluhan etc.. including Western rationality from the rational Greeks on (to extol the supposedly irrational and impulsively action oriented preSocratics and earlier Greeks), so as to personalize and subjectivize most areas of life. Nate mentions "our laws, our principles..a fact based model of policy making using facts and analysis". These and the constitution based on such assumptions become questioned
when rationality becomes subjectivized to become merely one style among many, or merely an ethnocentric pretext for self-gain or oppression; actions (esp. in the US where actions and effects are egalitarianly and pragmatically seen as the end-all and be all)can be simulated as prefabricated and polltested behaviors, not to mention the influence of filmed depictions and acting; cognition, and therefore the basis for one's behaviors and beliefs, increasingly assumed as defined by the visual/imagistic (rather than the naturally factual),and reaction can therefore be shaped and created by an instant commercial media, the immediate quasihypnotic visual and commercial consequences of which were not accounted for by the framers of the "laws, traditions, and principles" Nate speaks of, and I think potentially contradictory to them.

Posted by: Ted | June 22, 2007 05:16 PM

BTW, and immediately related, they make a big show of planning to close Gitmo, to build a prison under their supervision in Afghanistan, where there won't be the question that they aren't subject to American expectations of a trial?

Am somewhat reminded (analogously not directly pertinent)of the "unlawful/lawful combatant" business where becomes a problematic issue to detain as prisoners, avoided by the incentive of killing "potentially dangerous" individuals beforehand so don't have to take them prisoner.

Posted by: | June 22, 2007 05:37 PM

meant notimmediately related rather than immediately

Posted by: | June 22, 2007 05:42 PM

Just a pedantic note to Bukko:don't think one can validly use the letter of a document to contradict the spirit. I'll have to read the long damn thing.

Posted by: | June 22, 2007 05:44 PM

Interesting points--in other words the Founding Fathers didn't account for the negative and overpowering impact of new media--e.g. TV--on the national and rational public debate.

I would agree that new media have changed things, but in context I think it's important to remember that human nature hasn't changed in any substantial way in 200 years. Remember in 1798 the then ruling Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts which effectively made it illegal for the public to criticize the President--or the Congress. It was a shamelessly partisan law--a blatantly unConstitutional one; that was enforced in a blantantly partisan manner. At the end of the day, the Federalist took a major thumping--lost both houses of congress and the Executive; and one of the most partisan participants in the scheme--Samuel Chase--ended up as the only sitting Supreme Court judge to be impeached and convicted.

The overreaching then was different in a number of respects from what's going on now, but in other ways it strikes me as just as serious. We'll see if the public is up to the task on this one. I really don't know one way or another. If there's corruption at this stage, I would tend to look more towards Machiavelli's Discourses: When the people become corrupt (e.g. when they lose the will to fight constructively for their interests) the corruption of the body politic is reflected in the leadership. I think people do get shaken out of the stupor periodically. The Great Depression certain was a watershed event in terms of transforming the political landscape and reinvigorating the public.

I don't think we need the jolt of another Great Depression. I think folks actually made some constructive steps in 2006--but there's obviously still plenty of work to be done. I would also agree that people should be ticked off at what the Bush administration has done over the past few years; and what their representatives have NOT done yet in response--especially on the Greedy Old Perverts section of the aisle. We live in interesting times--that much I know.

Posted by: JP2 | June 22, 2007 05:47 PM

If Cheny says he not in the Executive branch then he has access to documents he's not supposed to have period. 'Pump Head' sounds right having seen many cases of it myself. For those of you that don't know pump head is a condition caused by being on a heart lung machine. Small bits of calcium are believed to be the cause. The machine pulverizes them to a small enough size they embed in various parts of the body and cause among other things a sometimes large decrease in cognitive abilities. Georgie shows symptoms of too much alcohol and drugs in his younger years as well. The studdering stammering speech for one. Its time for these two to go period. Quit wasting time. While the Congress sits around trying to figure out 'how its gonna look' they are screwing up more and more things and shredding the Constitution daily. I doubt the next election will even take place. Some 'war' event real or fake will provide the 'king' with a way to enact his recent EO on that matter and we'll have a monarch again. People are always talking about respecting the troops. How is ruining everything that troops have died for all these years respecting them. Its all illusion and lies. Simple impeachment is too good for these crooks. A long jail sentence and confiscation of their fortunes to be divided amongst the families of all the troops they killed would be much more appropriate.

Posted by: Griz | June 22, 2007 06:08 PM

And why exactly aren't these people being tried in a Nuremberg style court?

This is an absolute joke. These criminals have wrecked and undermined the very fabric of this country. They should be tried for treason and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Posted by: | June 22, 2007 06:38 PM

Griz:

I think you are being too kind.

Not long ago I was in the pardon, don't prosecute, for the sake of healing camp.

I've come 'round to the "we'll never save the constitution nor America as something respected at all in the world" unless there are consequences for such evil. Apply the standards of Nurnberg & hang 'em high- for the sake of everything every brave American has fought for.

Posted by: wrb | June 22, 2007 06:40 PM

I too have wondered whether Cheney can claim "executive privilege" if he is not part of the executive branch, and hope Congress pursues that question. Each day, as I read more - Iraq, the Justice Department, Gonzalez, Guantanamo, General Pace's non-reappointment, the Iraq war czar - I don't know whether to cry or roll on the floor in hysterical laughter. At this point, I even miss Nixon.

Posted by: klipvm | June 22, 2007 07:34 PM

The more things we learn about Cheney, the stranger things become. This guy is a nut case and has something seriously wrong about him. For example, he was put in charge of a search for VP.... and found himself. Then, paranoid about secrecy. Then, he and other neocons' dellusions about taking down Saddam Hussein and changing the face of the Middle East. That they did, but not how they expected, which has led to Bush's Folly. And, by the way, where is Bush in all this. Isn't he supposed to be the Commander in Chief and the Decider. More like the Follower in Chief and the Can't Decider. What the Bush administration has done to the U.S. government is tragic and will be left to other to have to clean up and make right. How could something like this have gone on for so long, and right under our noses? And it is still going on, but at least beginning to see the light of day under a Democratic Congress, rather than the rubber-stamping, put up with anything Republican controlled Congress.

Posted by: David2007 | June 22, 2007 07:35 PM

The government is broken. It needs fixing, and it needs a couple other viable parties to challenge the status quo. I'm not sure which is worse, the way the GOP has (neo)-conned this country, or the way the Dems have been most helpful in allowing them to do it. Neither deserves to be paid for the rest of their lives at our expense for the jobs that they have done. The Mongolian empire fell, the Roman empire fell, and this one is charting a faster, more humbling fall. Pitiful.

Posted by: L | June 22, 2007 07:53 PM

JP

It is one thing for John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts openly to forbid criticism of the government in the newspapers(particularly as the postConstitutional government was getting underway after a compromise of different states' interests and the fledgling republic was particularly vulnerable-also from the British ever looking for a chance to pounce); that is at least upfront and direct. I'll have to reread it soon. For some reason I can't readily explain, I'm actually not too disturbed by such a law, even though it curtails freedom of the press. Adams I'm sure also knew the role biased journalism had played stirring up animosity against the British during colonial times.

But images especially of the viscerally immediate kind of the digital age, TV, and computers(particularly as in immediate times, possibly postRodney King, but probably other factors, they are assumed as the currency of thought, rather than the whole apparatus of verbal argument and evidence)and depicted movie actions and roles which anyone can freeze on a video or DVD for themselves but never existed in real life, can have a different more subversive and invasive effect which CAN affect human nature (I myself have noticed changes in how some people's actual habits have changed with the digital age), and sometimes without consent. Many promoting such "progress" actually explicitly celebrate the possibility of controlling and changing human nature (also look at some of recent psychological techniques and doctrines) so this isn't a problem for them.

This also relates (e.g. the whole business of techniques of controlling the masses' mind to "sell" in America whether a product or an agenda/ideology)to the fact that American economic life is also a big loophole in the original system of laws (which of course assumed a more agricultural system), so I'm not sure if some of its assumptions may not need adaptation.
As if these weren't enough, we have plenty of other doctrinal challenges to reason,fact, and nature itself, beyond the media and technological developments.

Interesting times to be sure, and certainly the subject can't at all be dealt with in this limited space.

Posted by: Ted | June 22, 2007 07:55 PM

If Cheney is supposedly the evil mastermind, I wonder how he got like that after being Ford's chief of staff. Ford I didn't think was too bad (and also had the most scathing condemnations of the current administration which he didn't want divulged until after his death).

I've had the experience of watching how people I thought I knew in the 80's come to surprise me.


Posted by: | June 22, 2007 08:02 PM

then he has that totally idiotic Deny Perdition, aka dana perino at the presser acting like she was thrown out there to be a sacrificial and very stupid lamb. THIS is supposed to be the face of our govt? No wonder that we look so brainless to the rest of the world.

Posted by: pre-Amerikkkan | June 22, 2007 08:02 PM

If Cheney claims he is not part of the executive for the purposes of Executive Orders then he cannot claim Executive Privilege to refuse to furnish the documents requested by the legislature.

Posted by: Clyde Wickiser | June 22, 2007 09:03 PM

Most alarming of all is Cheneys attempt to abolish the oversight agencey. This is a prime characteristic of a dictator al la Hugo Chavez abolishing CRTV. Too bad our spineless Congress can't see the light here and begin impeachment immediately or may what is required for that is sex with an intern.

Posted by: Roy | June 22, 2007 09:08 PM

Griz: Thanks for the explanation of "pump head." I'm a hospital nurse, and I never heard of it. My ward has a step-down unit and we get post-vent patients from ICU, so I'll start looking for that syndrome.

JP2: I agree with you on the new Great Depression thing. The American people will never wake up (aside from the politically-minded types who frequent blogs such as this) and get active as long as there's food in the pantry and petrol in the tank. Life is comfortable for a majority (although that's being whittled away) so they can afford to stay asleep.

Unfortunately, I think the trend with the international trade and federal budget deficits is going to do to the U.S. dollar what Mugabe's mismanagement has done to the Zimbabwean currency. Not that drastic, of course, but enough to implode the economy. Only then will people get angry, bur unfortunately, they're likely to lash out in unpredictable ways. There's going to be a lot of pain for a lot of people, and it's going to ripple throughout the world. Not a good thing!

That's one of the reasons I got my arse out of the U.S. and my money into a country known for its mountains, chocolate and safe banks. On the other hand, I expected the faeces to hit the fan long before this, and it hasn't, so perhaps I'm wrong. I hope so...

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | June 22, 2007 11:35 PM

There are three people (besides Bush himself) who continue to be most responsible for the worst excesses of this failed Administration: Cheney, Rove and Gonzalez. My only hope is that before the end of 2007 the following three miracles occur:

1. Libby in exchange for getting his prison sentence commuted will finally squeal on Cheney to get him indicted and removed;

2.Congress will finally get Rove to testify under oath during which he will either perjure himself and/or admit to his systematic politicization of the U.S. Dept. of Justice; and

3. Gonzalez will finally tire of playing the fool for Bush and let the world know how he has been Bush's chief law breaking enabler for the past six and a half years

Call it a nice dream, but it gets me out of bed in the morning.

Posted by: Bartone Couchet | June 23, 2007 01:11 AM

Gabriel Fry's observation is brilliant! Rep. Waxman should take advantage of this thick-headed inconsistency immediately, and switch to requesting the record of Cheney's meetings early in this administration on energy policy. The supreme court may have supported his claim of executive privilege then, but Cheney has effectively abandoned that claim and should not be permitted to make it again, no?

Posted by: Peter Clarke | June 23, 2007 01:39 AM

In a different government job, the Vice President's role as President of the Senate would be lumped into "Other Duties As Assigned" and have zero impact on what the employee was truly considered to be doing.

It these charlatans weren't so serious about it, it would be laughable.

Posted by: DC | June 24, 2007 11:48 AM

Strange to say about such a drastic viewpoint, but I rather agree wityh much of what L says.

Posted by: Jake V | June 25, 2007 01:12 PM

Strange to say about such a drastic viewpoint, but I rather agree with
much of what L says.

Posted by: Jake V | June 25, 2007 01:13 PM

Waxman and Kucinich had better look both ways crossing the street as Cheney could be out driving on the way to his next quail hunt.

Posted by: msjn | June 25, 2007 02:10 PM

Oh Bukko I'm sure the US ECONOMY will be fine. That's one part all sides in the US ENSURE is taken care of: petty persecution and killing the undesirables, on the other hand...

Posted by: Darrin | June 25, 2007 02:34 PM

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