June 27th, 2007

Richard “Dick” Cheney Brings Down The Hammer, Accidentally Producing Highly Classified Damage to Own Testes

by Philip Baruth

To the extent that hard-nosed Republicans like to boast about wielding the hammer, bringing the hammer down, or, in the singular case of Tom Delay, actually personifying the Hammer, it’s satisfying when they occasionally swing way wide and lambaste their own nuts with the damn thing.

dick and rummy

Consider the current case of Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney.

As SecDef during the first Gulf War, Cheney elevated the information embargo to a high art. For that reason as much as any other, the Gulf War is remembered somehow by most Americans as a relatively bloodless affair.

And when Dick Cheney selected himself to serve as George W. Bush’s running mate, he seems to have had a full-scale expansion of this information embargo in mind from the very first.

And it has led Cheney, and the hapless Bush, into some very strange places.

But none stranger than the Vice President’s current assertion that he need not comply with orders issued by the President — in this case, an order to ensure proper handling of classified material — because he is not technically a part of the Executive Branch.

You can’t teach that sort of chutzpah.

This logic marked a full 180-degree turn from Cheney’s previous position: that he need not comply with orders issued by the Legislative Branch, because he was clearly covered by Executive Privilege.

Overall it was a wily strategy, if a bit in the “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” mold. But it worked just fine under one-Party rule.

It’s taken roughly four years, and the fall of both chambers into Democratic hands, but Cheney has finally exhausted his ample running room on the issue.

Why? Because Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois plans to amend funding legislation to strike Cheney’s staff and office from the budget allotted to the President to run the Executive Branch.

“The Vice President needs to make a decision,” Emanuel said.

And good for Emaneul, whose record has been mixed since he tried, along with James Carville and Charles Schumer, to muscle Howard Dean out of the limelight immediately following the midterm elections.

But this move VDB loves to death. And we’re not the only ones: Peter Welch is on board, and apparently ready to mix it up as well.

cheney's got a gun“Congressman Welch plans to vote for the amendment to illustrate the point that Vice President Cheney can’t have it both ways,” says Welch spokesman Andrew Savage. “He is either in the executive branch and must follow the law or if he isn’t, as he claims, he shouldn’t be funded as part of the executive branch.”

Word very much up.

Now, no one should get overly excited by this looming exchange. As with the Valerie Plame case, Bush will almost certainly wave his magic wand and retroactively validate Cheney’s strained logic.

That is, he will produce Presidential writ to the effect that Cheney was never covered by the Executive Order in question, Cheney will quietly admit to being covered by the Executive Branch, and the ploy’s actual purpose — buying years out from oversight — will have been effectively achieved.

Still, it’s satisfying to see Congress brandishing the whip. Because let’s face the abundant facts: it’s the only thing this particular crew understands.

Late Update, Wednesday June 27, 11:56 am:

Right on schedule: Cheney passes word that he’s back in the Executive Branch, and that the whole “Cheneiary Branch” theory was the work of slipshod lawyers.

Rahm still wants a piece of the Veep, however. So we may yet see even more casual simulations of obedience to the Law. We’ll keep you posted as details warrant.