"Vice presidents have none of their own work to do"
April 19, 2006 3:13 PM   Subscribe

"The job is waiting--there is no other job to do. ... Daniel Webster in the middle of the nineteenth century refused the vice presidential nomination saying 'he did not propose to be buried until he was already dead,' and Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of the twentieth century accepted it but said he was 'taking the veil' and considered going back to finish law school to occupy his spare time." The American Prospect investigates the workings of Cheney's Office of the Vice President and discusses its unprecedented power. A stark contrast with the traditional role of the vice president.
posted by russilwvong (19 comments total)
Might be part of a larger trend of expanding excutive powers across the board.
posted by bigmusic at 3:17 PM on April 19, 2006

I've read, in places, that Cheney is often called in Europe the Premier or the Prime Minister. Could any powers or priveleges arrogated by the Vice President stand up in court if they were challenged? Because it seems like it's Constitutionally an office with no powers.
posted by graymouser at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2006

David L. Phillips, the author of Losing Iraq, was a State Department consultant during the prelude to the war in 2003, and he watched Ravich operate. His account provides a perfect paradigm for the OVP’s role in interagency meetings, in this case involving the most important decision of the administration’s tenure: the decision to go to war in Iraq. During meeting after meeting in London, in Brussels, or in Washington with Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), and the rest of the Iraqi opposition (including its Shiite fundamentalist component), the youthful, inexperienced Ravich dominated the course of events because of her association with Cheney. “The State Department officials showed extraordinary deference to her,” says Phillips. “It was almost a sense that their efforts would be judged by Ms. Ravich and reported to the OVP.” The INC and Chalabi “would run to Samantha when there were disagreements.” In those meetings, the INC “would hold forth on their ties to the OVP as a form of threat over U.S. officials or other Iraqis. And U.S. officials felt that if there was a misstep, the Iraqis would go running to the OVP and they would have their chains yanked,” says Phillips. In Washington, Hannah served as the INC’s chief political point of contact, according to Entifadh Qanbar, an INC official who is serving as defense attaché at the Iraqi embassy.

Like Hannah, who came to the OVP from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Wurmser traipsed a roundabout path to Cheney’s staff: He worked with Hannah at WINEP in the 1990s, and then went to AEI, where he directed Middle East affairs, to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, to John Bolton’s arms control shop at the State Department, and then to the OVP. Even among ardent supporters of Israel, Wurmser -- and his wife, Meyrav, who runs the Hudson Institute’s Middle East program -- is considered an extremist. In 1996, the Wurmsers, Perle, and Feith co-authored the famous “Clean Break” paper for then–Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, which called for radical measures to redraw the map of the entire Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine) to benefit Israel. Later, in a series of papers and a book, Wurmser argued that toppling Saddam was likely to lead directly to civil war and the breakup of Iraq, but he supported the policy anyway: “The residual unity of [Iraq] is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state.” After Saddam, Iraq will “be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families,” he wrote. “Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition.” Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to “expedite” such a collapse. “The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.” Later, with former cia director James Woolsey and others, Wurmser proposed restoring the Jordan-based Hashemite monarchy in Iraq. While Wurmser’s OVP allies may share his neoconservative fantasies of the willy-nilly reorganization of the Middle East, few experts do. “I’ve known him for years, and I consider him to be a naive simpleton,” says a former U.S. ambassador. Adds Wilkerson, “A lot of these guys, including Wurmser, I looked at as card-carrying members of the Likud party, as I did with Feith. You wouldn’t open their wallet and find a card, but I often wondered if their primary allegiance was to their own country or to Israel. That was the thing that troubled me, because there was so much that they said and did that looked like it was more reflective of Israel’s interest than our own.”
posted by y2karl at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2006

A must-read:

Who's Cheney Working For?

Vice President Dick Cheney reported $8.82 million in profits from exercised Halliburton stock options on his tax return this year.

Sure, they call it "deferred compensation." Yes, it is in the form of stock options -- and, apparently, it has been "set aside for charity." And I suppose it's honorable to give away 8.82 million dollars. It seems quite altruistic.

But when a guy whose salary as Vice President is around $180,000 gives away 8.82 million, you have to wonder where his real security is coming from.

posted by digaman at 4:38 PM on April 19, 2006

It seems to me that the way Cheney treats vice-presidency of the US is similar to how the vice-president of a corporation might work. He is President of the Senate, a very limited role, but has no other powers or duties except what may be inferred from the necessity of being able to step in as President in a heartbeat.

There's a very good article on Wikipedia about the changing role of the VP. It seems from that article that Cheney is the inheritor of a trend, which I can't see going any further without turning the office into a diumvirate. The way I see it working now is, Bush is delegating his powers to Cheney, without limiting his own ability to exercise them. Everything Cheney does has Bush's implicit (and usually, explicit) approval. The same can fairly be said of any member of a President's cabinet, of course, and if they are in accord, it doesn't really matter. The question of rank only comes up if there is dispute, in which case Cheney can overrule a cabinet member, and Bush could, in theory, overrule Cheney (although it's uncertain that the administration works that way).

The thing is, the captain/first-mate/officers model is a logical way to run a collective enterprise (a country, a bean farm, a corporation, a theatrical society, etc), it is the way most enterprises are run, and it will likely continue to be the way future VPs operate.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:45 PM on April 19, 2006

y2karl: thats what I saw too:

After Saddam, Iraq will “be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families,” he wrote....Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to “expedite” such a collapse. “The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.”
posted by gemini at 5:47 PM on April 19, 2006

How can we get rid of a Vice President tho? Can they be impeached? indicted? imprisoned?
posted by amberglow at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2006

heh. y2karl ledogged the thread.
posted by carsonb at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2006

Article II, Section 4:
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Spiro Agnew resigned just before pleading nolo contendere to tax evasion and money laundering as a deal to avoid being indicted for bribery.

Aaron Burr was indicted for murder in New York and New Jersey while he was Vice President, for dropping Hamilton in their duel. He wasn't put on trial, though.

Twenty Questions About Impeaching a Vice President
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 PM on April 19, 2006

thanks, kirk

looks like Cheney'll be doing some uranium shopping soon too--that 2 million dollar tax refund for "charity" should buy a nice amount.
posted by amberglow at 8:14 PM on April 19, 2006

I tend to agree with aeschenkarnos that the VP has necessarily expanded from the "warm bucket of piss" model to more of a COO or XO (of a naval ship) model. Reagan and Clinton both gave their VPs great latitude (Bush 41 said the same of Quayle but nobody believed it -- although the OVP then was surely an RJ-45 cable straight to the religious and social conservative base).

Cheney's far beyond that -- seriously considered by many the power behind the throne, a kind of imperial regency for a educated but uncurious President. If the top guy wants it that way, that's gonna be the way things are, of course -- there are no rules circumscribing VP powers because in theory outside the tiebreaker Senate vote it has none.

The idea that they don't even answer routine questions about who works in the office is quite astonishing. One does recall how lambasted Gore was for asserting that there was "no controlling legal authority" for where he made his fundraising phone calls. But now we've got a Veep who -- you know -- orders planes shot down (whether it happened or not, the order is not in dispute) while the Prez is being flown willy-nilly around the country for his "safety", and seemingly negotiates in his stead with allies and enemies alike. Nobody would care what the OVP does if it weren't important what it's doing.
posted by dhartung at 9:28 PM on April 19, 2006

In 1932, John Nance Garner made the definitive assesment that "The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit".

He also opined that his running mate, Franklin Roosevelt, "is the most destructive man in all American history", which makes me wonder what he would have thought of W.

The most intelligent thing W has ever done is pick Cheney as his VP, because things could always get worse. Am I the only one hoping for another Paleocene meteor strike to wipe out this batch of dinosaurs?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:41 AM on April 20, 2006

The most intelligent thing W has ever done is pick Cheney as his VP

i think you meant to write "The most intelligent thing W has ever done is allow Cheney to conduct a half-hearted and possibly bogus VP search that resulted in Dick delcaring himself the best choice for the job", since that's how it actually happened. ;-)
posted by lord_wolf at 8:48 AM on April 20, 2006

Dreyfus also has a great article in Rolling Stone: The Pentagon's New Spies
posted by homunculus at 4:27 PM on April 20, 2006

lord_wolf - You mean Cheney is the one who actually made the decision? (Insert DECIDER joke here.)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 3:29 AM on April 21, 2006

posted by homunculus at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2006

that whole sleeping thing is hysterical--he has his fingers in pies all over, but has totally missed out on the China Gold Rush.
posted by amberglow at 12:33 PM on April 22, 2006

wouldn't a china gold rush assume that national boundaries, current geopolitical alignments, and the global situation at large trend the same for a while yet? maybe I'm a little paranoid (a little?), but I put all this together and come out with "Cheney is planning to wield power over the entire world." he doesn't want to buy into China, he wants to take it over.
posted by carsonb at 6:26 PM on April 22, 2006

it's not possible to take it over, and he knows it.
posted by amberglow at 10:50 PM on April 22, 2006

« Older The Internet hive mind   |   Birds are dying! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments