Dick Cheney's quiet coup d'etat
February 4, 2007 4:45 PM   Subscribe

TPM's David Kurtz: I've gone from being open to the idea of an Imperial Vice Presidency to being convinced that historians will debate whether something approaching a Cheney-led coup d'etat has occurred, in which some of the powers of the Executive were extra-constitutionally usurped by the Office of the Vice President. More about the Vice President, Richard "Dick" Cheney.
posted by nevercalm (51 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably one of the more interesting BushFilter posts.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:49 PM on February 4, 2007


in which some of the powers of the Executive were extra-constitutionally usurped by the Office of the Vice President.

You think?
posted by loquacious at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2007


This is a TalkingPointsMemo post unfortunately. Two steps up from a DailyKos post, but still it is a lefty partisan blog. When it starts getting discussed in the pages NYT or WashPost then I'll pay more attention (which may yet happen, but it hasn't happened yet and sometimes blogs are portents of the future.)
posted by bhouston at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2007


digby on this: A Fourth Branch?--...I had always known that Cheney was running the show, but I assumed he did it purely by using the power of the executive branch and manipulation of the presdient. I had no idea that he might have secretly carved out a previously unenumerated institution that derives its power from both the legislative and executive branches. What in the hell has really been going on in this administration?

Larry Wilkerson called it a "cabal" around Dick Cheney. But it seems to have been more than that. They created a shadow government and developed a constitutional theory to support it.

The undemocratic streak in the Republican Party continues apace. Each time they get power, they seek ways to weaken the nation's understanding of what is acceptable in our democracy and what our constitution provides. (And keep in mind that it is entirely self-serving --- they will turn all of that around without a moment's thought when it suits them to challenge the opposition.) ...

posted by amberglow at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2007


and Correntewire: ...This started when the TPM crew set out to find out a seemingly basic, easy question: how many people work for the Office of the Vice President (OVP)? Turns out you are not allowed to know this. Never mind who they are, what they do, or who comes to visit them during working, taxpayer-funded hours, you aren’t allowed to know how many of them exist, again paid for with your tax dollars. How can this be, you ask? ...
posted by amberglow at 5:41 PM on February 4, 2007


Actually, bhouston, the lack of (and real need for) any real substantive media coverage of this issue is directly addressed in the post:

If Cheney were the actual president, not just the de facto one, he simply could not govern with the same set of policies and approval ratings of 20 percent. The media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England.

Yet the press buys the pretense of Bush being "the decider," and relentlessly covers Bush -- meeting with world leaders, cutting brush, holding press conferences, while Cheney works in secret, largely undisturbed. So let's take half the members of the overblown White House press corps, which has almost nothing to do anyway, and send them over to Cheney Boot Camp for Reporters. They might learn how to be journalists again, and we might learn who is running the government.

posted by nevercalm at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


When it starts getting discussed in the pages NYT or WashPost then I'll pay more attention

This is kinda puzzling. I assume you mean the country will pay more attention then--surely you can't mean that you personally don't pay any attention to an issue unless it receives national press? Surely the time to start paying attention is long before that, given the opportunity?
posted by maxwelton at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


how many people work for the Office of the Vice President (OVP)? Turns out you are not allowed to know this.

Has this always been the case for OVPs or is it something knew? Are we allowed to know how many people work for the President? Speaker of the House?

Who or what agency says we're not allowed to know? What happens if someone demands to know and files a Freedom of Information request?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2007


in which some of the powers of the Executive were extra-constitutionally usurped by the Office of the Vice President

um, unless it's contrary to GWB's direct orders, it's neither usurping nor extra-constitutional.
posted by winston at 6:20 PM on February 4, 2007


Thanks for the post. I haven't made my way through the links yet other than the main Kurtz one, but I'd also like to add this Joan Didion essay that was discussed here.

On preview: winston, even if Cheney was given executive powers by the president himself, there's the question of whether Cheney recieved those powers expressly so that he could act without oversight (and whether the OVP can act without oversight in the first place, as Brandon Blatcher asked.) It's at very least a betrayal of public trust, maybe something much worse. But why wave off the question? Don't you think taxpaying citizens have a right to basic information about thier own federal government?
posted by maryh at 6:38 PM on February 4, 2007


um, unless it's contrary to GWB's direct orders, it's neither usurping nor extra-constitutional.

I can think of a lot of scenarios where it would be both. Just some examples of many: the VP has dirt on the Pres and uses it to hold him in his thrall (this is traditional way to usurp the weak monarch) and, at the same time has a secret administration calling the shots in Congress through various semi-legal and illegal means: leaks, control of election funds, more dirt/extortion and the one that spooks me the most: Cheney (and the Executive branch) seem to have the ability to *just do stuff* that is illegal: illegal wire taps, illegal financial probes, illegal kidnappings, illegal imprisonment and the list goes on. Circumventing laws enacted by congress (like the Bill of Rights, or the FISA court) is certainly extra-constitutional. Let's not even go into the massive funds lost in Iraq by the executive branch. Listen: when those guys lose money you'd better believe that a good bit of it is going somewhere to do something. they used money illegally to start *this* war, after all.

Hard to imagine all this being well clear of the tinfoil hat territory in my lifetime, but here we are.
posted by n9 at 6:43 PM on February 4, 2007


um, unless it's contrary to GWB's direct orders, it's neither usurping nor extra-constitutional.

Well, no. Bush can not order Cheney to do something, and thus make it Constitutional (if that were the case).

And that's assuming that Bush has any real control over Cheney -- the author's don't think that is so.

So your point seems entirely vapid to me.
posted by teece at 7:19 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Darth Cheney
posted by homunculus at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2007


Question: What is the connection between a possible American attack on Iran and the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby? Answer: Vice President Dick Cheney.
posted by homunculus at 7:35 PM on February 4, 2007


Two steps up from a DailyKos post.

So, which DailyKos post is this two steps up from?
posted by washburn at 7:36 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


here's one thought: is it politically feasible to impeach cheney? it's not like he's popular, and he's not the commander in chief. is there any political downside at all? you could even let Patrick Leahy preside. that along would be worth the price of admission.
posted by paul_smatatoes at 7:37 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


but still it is a lefty partisan blog

oh noes!1!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would say that TPM is probably the least partisan of the (top-tier) lefty blogs.
posted by pruner at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2007


.

democracy
posted by DragonBoy at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2007


Has this always been the case for OVPs or is it something knew? Are we allowed to know how many people work for the President? Speaker of the House?

I don't know if we have some esoteric right to know, but generally the information is published. You can find the people who worked for Al Gore's office on this page (search the page for "vice president")
posted by delmoi at 8:30 PM on February 4, 2007


TPM Muckraker linked to a pdf of a 2004 directory for the White House Office of the Vice President earlier this week, which lists 81 employees employees (including 6 who work for Lynne Cheney).
posted by pruner at 8:47 PM on February 4, 2007


Has this always been the case for OVPs or is it something new?

No, it has not always been the case. Yes, it is something new. It's hard to tell because nobody cared that much about the vice presidency before. Including the vice presidents.

is it politically feasible to impeach cheney?

He knows where the Foleys are buried.

um, unless it's contrary to GWB's direct orders, it's neither usurping nor extra-constitutional.

The power-sharing arrangement, whatever it is, may not be usurping. That is a question quite separate from whether the Vice President has acted extra-constitutionally.

For myself, the amazing thing (and I'm reading Imperial Life in the Emerald City right now) is just how many people Cheney flummoxes, sandbags, blackmails, or just plain routes around. I've never known a Secretary of State as passive to administration politics as Rice. Really, I've never known an administration this tightly controlled from top to bottom. You never hear of any of the cabinet having independent views -- most of them are simply invisible. (I attribute this to the elimination of daily cabinet meetings sometime around 2002, and the ad hoc re-routing of decision-making through a few WH staff, some of whom are not in the cabinet at all.) Certainly they don't go up against each other.

It's completely bizarre, too (young'uns who can't remember otherwise take note) to have a Republican Senate and House act as WH political organs, instead of the independent power centers they once were. This goes beyond any level of party unity I've seen in my lifetime. These people are elected separately -- why are they beholden to an empty ten-gallon hat?

As for Bush and Cheney themselves, I imagine it's possible that Bush actually likes being the CEO who has a dependable COO off in a quiet corner office he never has to worry about. But a guy running 20% ... helps you lose elections. Helps the other party run Congress. You have to think that affects him somehow in the end.

But this whole administration has jumped off the deep end in so many ways. I wouldn't be surprised if they were to adjust to a Democratic Congress by bringing it no legislation to pass and signing none that it passes, while filling all open positions with brevet appointments. Basically acting like the other branch doesn't exist. Could they do it if they wanted? Spending bills would be a problem. Technically Congress could run them out of money. Or could they, for this administration?

In any case, the historians will have a field day. There has never been a Vice Presidency like Cheney's, and it's hard to imagine there being another remotely similar.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 PM on February 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


He knows where the Foleys are buried.

I seriously first parsed this as, "He knows where the FNORDs are buried," but then, all of a sudden, I couldn't see the FNORD anymore...

Spooky.
posted by sparkletone at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2007


cheney's extraconstitutional powers first came to my attention in the context of stories about him ordering the military to shoot down hijacked aircraft in u.s. airspace. i remember being concerned about that because of my (perhaps naive, even for a retired lawyer) understanding that the chain of command goes from the president to the secretary of defense to the joint chiefs to whatever in the field. any diversion or usurpation in this chain is zero-sum in the sense that the vice president takes his extra power directly away from the extraordinarily weak president we have now. the vice president is supposed to be the spare tire for the executive car. he (hopefully a she at some point in my lifetime) can be an organizer, advocate, armtwister and coordinator, but not a decider as i understand our system.
posted by bruce at 10:42 PM on February 4, 2007


but still it is a lefty partisan blog

Since "lefty partisan blogs" have been consistently right for seven years, you might want to consider reading them. Bit of a fallacy to "give equal treatment to an issue" when public opinion is running 80-20 in one direction.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:05 AM on February 5, 2007


> can be an organizer, advocate, armtwister and coordinator, but not a decider as i understand our system.

It was my understanding that the job of Vice President consists of whatever the President wants it to be, and that whatever the Vice President does (even 'deciding') he does as a proxy for the President and by the President's authority. As n9 suggests, the Vice President may find a way (e.g., as he suggests, blackmail, or by just tying him up and hiding him in a closet) to force a weak President to lend him unprecedented authority and freedom to act, but that would be criminal, not unconstitutional. The VP would still be exercising authority as a mouthpiece for the President. The President could confer exactly the same unprecedented practical power on any other member of the support crew--or even his wife. He is responsible for 'deciding' but he is not required to do the deciding personally.
posted by jfuller at 3:24 AM on February 5, 2007


> Since "lefty partisan blogs" have been consistently right for seven years, you might want to
> consider reading them.

Oh, I do, I do. Pretty constantly. I find them filled with rightness, just as you say, mixed in with vast, bleak stretches of time-cube-equivalent rants and paranoia. Not unlike right-wing blogs, in short. The best known ones are correct, or at least more nearly correct that any other segment of the spectrum, on their share of issues, but you have to put a very great deal of work into locating these elements and extracting them from all the predictions of the impending Rapture. (Fascist takeover is the faith-based left wing Rapture--permitting, as it would, such an orgy of "I told you so" outrage addict's Heaven. The faithful lefty never gives up hoping.)
posted by jfuller at 4:45 AM on February 5, 2007


Let me correct one incorrect assumption I keep seeing repeated:
The VP, the Attorney General and every-damn-one else in DC work for the f*cking people, not for Dubya!

Remember how the Repubs wailed and gnashed teeth about Janet Reno's supposed lack of autonomy from Clinton? And now we have Bush/Cheney sycophants claiming they cannot go to the toilet without a permission slip. Bull!
posted by nofundy at 6:02 AM on February 5, 2007


IMPEACH!

Bush and Cheney. And don't hand me that 'there's not enough time' nonsense. If there's not enough time to punish public officials who break the law and betray the public trust then what's the point of having laws?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:17 AM on February 5, 2007


When it starts getting discussed in the pages NYT or WashPost then I'll pay more attention...

And that is why our country is going to hell in a handbasket...
posted by jonp72 at 7:22 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


They created a shadow government and developed a constitutional theory to support it.

And anyone who work in or for this shadow government swore to defend the Constitution of the United States.

Historically the vice presidency was seen as a weak position "not worth a pitcher of warm piss." The office started becoming more important when Nixon expanded the role when he was Eisenhower's vice president.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:36 AM on February 5, 2007


> Let me correct one incorrect assumption I keep seeing repeated: The VP, the Attorney General
> and every-damn-one else in DC work for the f*cking people, not for Dubya!

In some vague, wooly, abstract sense, 'the people' being a vague, wooly, abstract concept. But 'the people' get a chance to fire Dick and Condoleezza and the rest once every four years. Dubya can fire any of them any time he likes, on 30 seconds' notice. Who's the real boss?
posted by jfuller at 9:29 AM on February 5, 2007


Fascist takeover is the faith-based left wing Rapture--permitting, as it would, such an orgy of "I told you so" outrage addict's Heaven. The faithful lefty never gives up hoping.

If you'll excuse my usual derailing...

jfuller's parenthetical remark reminds me of how fervently the left seems to superficially fear yet secretly hope and pray for the US government to resume drafting people into military service -- despite the military's insistence that the last thing in the world they want, quite sensibly, is to have to deal with intaking, training, and leading folks who didn't want to be there in the first place.

If the left does indeed hope for reinstatement of the draft: Why? Because it's a familiar touchstone of opposition? To have a reason to riot and demonstrate as during the Vietnam war? To have a more overt bogeyman to rail against?
posted by pax digita at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2007


Since "lefty partisan blogs" have been consistently right

i'm sure you meant "consistently correct". :-)
posted by quonsar at 10:24 AM on February 5, 2007


There's nothing vague, wooly, or abstract about "government derived by the consent of the people."
There's also nothing vague, wooly, or abstract about an oath to uphold the Constitution and represent the people.
The poor excuse of "we get a chance to fire them every four years" doesn't hold up.
We can damn well fire them any day, just like little Dubya, 'cause we can "fire" his ass too! And you know it.
Accountability doesn't stop at the ballot box!
Sounds like some of David Brooks' weak rationalizations.
Is it the best you can do to defend and protect your criminal Dear Leader and his minions?
posted by nofundy at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2007


Fascist takeover is the faith-based left wing Rapture--permitting, as it would, such an orgy of "I told you so" outrage addict's Heaven. The faithful lefty never gives up hoping.

jfuller's parenthetical remark reminds me of how fervently the left seems to superficially fear yet secretly hope and pray for the US government to resume drafting people into military service -- despite the military's insistence that the last thing in the world they want, quite sensibly, is to have to deal with intaking, training, and leading folks who didn't want to be there in the first place.

If the left does indeed hope for reinstatement of the draft: Why?


Bullshit--both of you. We don't secretly hope to lose whatever freedom and rights we have left. Are you insane? We fear that--not hope for it. We would be rounded up and dead if it came to pass. Get real.

The draft equalizes. A draft would ensure that pre-emptive and insane wars like Iraq would never happen, because the risk would be spread more evenly throughout society.
posted by amberglow at 10:54 AM on February 5, 2007


IMPEACH!
Bush and Cheney. And don't hand me that 'there's not enough time' nonsense.


come on everyone, let's get on that. i'm adding it to my to do list. right after the groceries i'll get right on it.
posted by andywolf at 11:09 AM on February 5, 2007


> We can damn well fire them any day, just like little Dubya, 'cause we can "fire" his ass too! And you know it.

How? I'm genuinely puzzled. If you can do it any day, why haven't you done it? You don't seem to lack the desire!
posted by jfuller at 11:32 AM on February 5, 2007


Notice the difference between a collective "we" and your singular "you"?
OK, no more baiting jfuller.
You're not so stupid that you don't know what I'm talking about and this ain't freerepublic.
I consider this exchange terminated as you obviously have no intention of constructive dialogue.
posted by nofundy at 11:38 AM on February 5, 2007


The draft equalizes. A draft would ensure that pre-emptive and insane wars like Iraq would never happen, because the risk would be spread more evenly throughout society.

Sorry, but I don't buy this. How many rich kids went to Vietnam? In every conscripted army in history, the poor get rounded up to fight and the privileged have a way out, whether that's going to college or joining the National Guard or getting a medical deferment or what have you. I'll grant there's the odd, honorable exception, but for the most part, a draft sends the same poor, rural white/urban black, under-privileged citizens who go to war for the rest of us now.
posted by EarBucket at 11:46 AM on February 5, 2007


The draft equalizes. A draft would ensure that pre-emptive and insane wars like Iraq would never happen, because the risk would be spread more evenly throughout society.

Ideally, yes, I suppose it might, but isn't "because the risk would be spread more evenly throughout society" a pro-draft argument? And doesn't that merely underscore what I just pointed out? In any case, I don't think there's any realistic reason to join you (and whomever else your "we" consists of) to "fear" a draft.

I apologize if you think my opinions are sufficient cause to swear at me and ask me if I'm insane, but I don't hear right-wingers talking about the draft other than to lampoon the left for their apparent hand-wringing. Are you frustrated because I pointed out something about the left you'd rather I hadn't? I'm kinda lefty on a lot of things, and I don't much like the idea of a draft either. But I'll refrain from cursing at and insulting you just because I disagree with you.

Again: The military may have a manpower problem, but there's just enough institutional memory left at senior levels that remembers what the troops were like in the early '70s that a draft doesn't look attractive as a solution.

Sorry for the derail. Discussion of this issue probably would better fit the "three feet high and rising" thread rather than one about Cheney....
posted by pax digita at 11:57 AM on February 5, 2007


> Notice the difference between a collective "we" and your singular "you"?

Ah, OK, I'm with you now. We the People could fire Dubya and co. any day. That would be constitutionally by impeachment (which your girl Pelosi won't let you do) or extra-constitutionally by armed insurrection (with which rotsa ruck, dude.) Please excuse the ring, I thought you might have something.
posted by jfuller at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2007


I like the Spartan system of setting your two top executives at odds with each other. Perhaps split the presidency into two co-presidents - one concerned with foreign affairs, one domestic with congress holding the funds, that’d work pretty well. Particularly if the two co-presidents are of different parties. They’d both, f’rinstnce, have to agree to go to war. Although the POTUS seems to have slipped the congress’ leash on war powers over time.

Theory aside, the Veep’s office should certainly be answerable to the people. Just whoTF does he think he is? And indeed, plenty of folks in the executive branch need to be impeached just now. More a matter of practical necessity than anything else. But I doubt it will happen given the Dem’s eye for political expediancy. Funny how many liberal folks demand conservatives see the truth that the Republican party has completely undermined conservative values (which is true) yet don’t similarly notice the Dem’s have pretty much beached their values as well. (Generally speaking. Enlightened individuals abound)
I’m not saying there’s no difference between the parties, but certainly the term ‘loyal opposition’ has become meaningless. One can shout that this is happening, but one has to ask - why is it happening? That’s where the work has to start. And it’s not enough to say “money” or some such. The mechanics of Cheney’s career are manifest and obvious. And steps must be taken to eliminate the possiblity of replication in addition to shutting down the circumvention of the common interest and will of the people going on right now. Democracy is a dynamic system after all. Because any static set (laws, defenses, whatever) can be overcome. So we adapt.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on February 5, 2007


"The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter."

If this doesn't bother you, it's because you are a kook. You can complain about the sourcing all you want--though if you bothered, you'd see the source of the above quote is the OVP itself.
posted by Nahum Tate at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2007


even if the rich got their kids out of a draft, the vast middle wouldn't be able to--that's the equalizer.

i don't fear a draft. i fear fascism. i don't hope for either, but if we had a draft, we would not have had Iraq--trust me on that.
posted by amberglow at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2007


Smedleyman is right. I don't trust the Dems to choose to do the right thing for the country-- Impeaching Bush and Cheney-- over doing the right thing to cover their own political asses.

Call me a naive optimist-- call me a hopeless dreamer-- but deep down I still believe that if enough people could look up from their bags of groceries long enough to shout, "IMPEACH!" then Pelosi and her ilk would get the message, loud and clear.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2007


they won't do it, Fuzzy...it's pathetic.
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on February 5, 2007


We’d probably have to start by cutting the advantage of big money in elections. That was given a 1/2 ass try before. And, say, eliminating lobbyists or removing pensions from former public employees who lobby generally gets a good laugh all around. It can be done though. It’s not enough to cry for impeachment, the right conditions must be created for it to occur. This can be done in small increments. Indeed, that’s how we came to the situation we’ve come to today. Some folks can work on the FCC stuff, others can push for lobbying reform, etc. etc. whatever your focus is, wherever your passion lay and whatever can be done locally.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:54 PM on February 5, 2007


If memory serves, the majority of deferments to the draft were eliminated by the early seventies. Also if memory serves, they pulled out of Viet Nam and ended the war not long after.

Another aspect of the draft is that, sure, the rich kids will always find a way to weasel their way out, as usual. But all the evangelicals we keep hearing about, Bush's base who will stand by him through thick and thin, are scraping by and have no connections like most of us. They have tons of care and love and time invested in their kids, and I suspect they would wake up pretty quickly once their children started disappearing into all the fresh new holes in the ground in their hometowns and start demanding that the war end soon, no matter whether the shrub is the second coming or not. The left doesn't salivate for the draft, they/we salivate for an end to this bullshit war that's being perpetrated by people who are doing things that are 1,000,000 times worse than anything Clinton (and the rest of us who supported him) got 8 solid years of investigations, hearings, threats and impeachment for, and they/we know that a draft is a really quick and dirty way to accomplish that end.

Cheney being in the position he's in, the war(s), the rumored attack on Iran, rampant stupidity, the loss of an American city, the revocation of so many of our civil liberties, they're all happening because the people that the rethuglicans care about aren't saying all that much about it. I'm fairly sure it'll go on until they do.
posted by nevercalm at 4:12 PM on February 5, 2007


Cheney’s Son-In-Law Blamed for Delaying Investigations of Homeland Security Department
posted by homunculus at 3:24 PM on February 6, 2007


ISOO Asks Attorney General to Rule on Cheney's Role
posted by homunculus at 11:59 AM on February 7, 2007


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