Dick Cheney’s Extraordinary Powers Under the Conservative Constitution

Normally the Vice President has limited powers and it depends upon his relationship with the President as to whether he can do much of anything at all. During the Bush/Cheney years it has often been joked that Dick Cheney was really the one in control. Little did we know that Cheney really thought his office had special powers and is outside of the Executive Branch.

The Los Angeles Times provides background, noting that Cheney has claimed that his office has held a special position for quite some time:

For the last four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has made the controversial claim that his office is not fully part of the Bush administration in order to exempt it from a presidential order regulating federal agencies’ handling of classified national security information, officials said Thursday.

Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office’s failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government’s top secrets.

According to documents released Thursday by a House committee, Cheney’s staff has blocked efforts by the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office to enforce a key component of the presidential order: a mandatory on-site inspection of the vice president’s office. At least one of those inspections would have come at a particularly delicate time — when Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and other aides were under criminal investigation for their suspected roles in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame…

One Cheney staffer familiar with the matter said Thursday that the vice president has not complied with the order because his office has dual functions: It is part of the executive branch — the Bush administration — but also part of the legislative branch, given Cheney’s position as president of the Senate.

As such, the vice president’s office has no legal obligation to abide by the order because it only applies to the executive branch, said the Cheney staffer, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the inner workings of the office and requested anonymity.

Cheney’s position is articulated in the 2004 edition of an annual government directory of senior officials known as the Plum Book:

“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. The vice presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch … and in the executive branch.”

While there has been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about this the last two days, this was not really news. I recalled reading that Cheney was making the same claims earlier in the year. While I’m not certain if this was the original source, a Google search for “cheney vice president separate branch” had a post from Talking Points Memo pop up on top. Josh Marshall reported on these claims in February, complete with a link to the Plum Book.

Perhaps somebody should send Dick Cheney a copy of the Constitution. Steve Benen notes that this is all a part of a trend where some conservatives live in an alternate reality where the Constitution has a different meaning than that intended by the founding fathers. Steve provides separation of church and state as one example where the Conservative Constitution is different from the Constitution of the United States. I’d provide yet another. In their Constitution the Bill of Rights is limited to the Second Amendment and the other nine do not exist.

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  1. 1
    Ron Holland says:

    Both Bush & Cheney actlike they are above the law.

    Dick Cheney is the power behind the throne. Of course, he and Bush believe they are exempt from Presidential Executive Orders.

    Still, Presidential Executive Orders during the War on Terror can be used by the executive branch to further destroy the Constitution and our liberties.

    Read the Final Presidential Executive Order from the online book, “The Swiss Preserve Solution” at http:// http://www.swissconfederationinstitute.com/swisspreserve14.htm

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Agree they both act like they are above the law, but I’m not sure that Cheney is still the power behind the throne any more. I wonder if his decrease in influence is even contributing to the bunker mentality from him.

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