Barton Gellman and Jo Becker post the first part of a four-part series on the influence of Dick Cheney in this Administration:
Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch. In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text. Cheney’s proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court — civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed “military commissions.” “What the hell just happened?” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.
The world is full of examples of powerful people who think they are exempt from the laws because of some self justifying logic. But too bad for us tough guy Cheney with his impassioned commitment to torture and secret power couldn’t get bin Laden and failed to win the war in Iraq with his friend Rumsfeld. His sense of a higher purpose that justified circumventing the law and the deliberative process is totally divorced from the simple reality of the total ineptness of the administration’s service to America from Katrina to Iraq to its failure to get bin Laden and finish al Qaeda. We didn’t get a better policy because Cheney thought he knew better and was hostile to process, we got failed one after failed one after failed one. Even with all that secret extra-legal power he yielded and bestowed for all these years, he couldn’t show success on any front when it mattered.
Cheney isn’t part of the Executive Branch. He IS the Executive Branch. Or is it that he is above the Executive Branch? As Steve Benen notes, Cheney has been claiming he’s not to be held to the same rules as members of the Executive Branch for a while.
One has to wonder – why didn’t Congress impeach Dick Cheney by now? Maybe, it’s because they were told that Cheney is too powerful to be impeached.