The Imperial Vice Presidency
I am, to put it mildly, not Rahm Emanuel’s biggest fan, but his response to Dick Cheney’s claim to be exempt from executive branch oversight is priceless:
Today, we discovered that everything we learned in U.S. government class was wrong. Evidently, the Vice President does not consider himself a part of the executive branch, and therefore believes he can obstruct meaningful oversight and avoid being held accountable. If the Vice President truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill.
CREW piles on, and their take might be even better:
Under his argument, if Mr. Cheney is not subject to executive branch security requirements, surely he must be subject to Senate rules.
To safeguard sensitive information, in 1987 the Senate created the Office of Senate Security, which is part of the Secretary of the Senate. The Security Office’s standards, procedures and requirements are set out in the Senate Security Manual, which is binding on all employees of the Senate.
In addition, Mr. Cheney and his staff would be subject to investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, which has the responsibility to investigate allegations of improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate, including violations of law and the rules and regulations of the Senate.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Mr. Cheney’s arguments raise new questions:
“Since there is no fourth branch of government to which Mr. Cheney could belong, by claiming the Office of the Vice President is within the legislative branch does Mr. Cheney agree that he is subject to Senate security procedures?”
Now, it seems to me that, as CREW observes, Cheney must be in one branch or the other (or both) but there’s no way he can be in neither. And if he has to pick just one branch to belong to, I would think it would behoove him to pick the one controlled by his own party. Not to mention, y’know, the one that his nominal boss is in. Because, call me crazy, but Cheney’s claim that he does not belong to the executive branch sounds like an admission that he does not work for the President. Or, indeed, for anyone. While this is probably accurate, I’m pretty sure it was never intended to be common knowledge.
If you want a little more serious coverage, check out this LA Times story (registration required). My favorite bits:
In his letter to the vice president, Waxman said two Cheney staffers — including Libby — have been criminally prosecuted in the alleged illegal disclosure of classified information.
“Your office may have the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified information,” Waxman wrote.
“Here’s a guy who raises ‘executive privilege’ to historic levels to exempt himself from all rules and oversight, and now he says he’s not part of the executive branch?” said [Berkeley Constitutional scholar Gordon] Silverstein. “Here we have a subordinate part of the executive branch asserting independent constitutional authority even against its own superior. It is flabbergasting.”
You’d think that this is the sort of thing that a bold, decisive leader like Dubya would want to clear up boldly and decisively, but so far the official White House line appears to be, “We don’t really know if he’s right or not, but it’s none of the legislature’s business how we enforce executive orders.” But if Cheney’s part of the legislature…
Of course, the simplest explanation is that the Bushies just make shit up so they don’t have to come right out and admit that they find the Constitution too confining, but what are the odds of that?