Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dead-Eye Dick's Lips Are Moving Again

Is it just me or does Dick Cheney, who remains the BTK Vice President until he begs forgiveness for his defense of the right to torture, have the highest lie-to-public-statement ratio in the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C. area? Sure, there are others who lie more frequently, probably - I'm sure Patton, Boggs and Hill & Knowlton are still getting paid to mislead the public about some ruthless regime somewhere- but Cheney says so little, and lies so frequently and with such impunity when he does, that he probably takes the crown.

If it wasn't Valerie Plame name not having been leaked, it was never having met John Edwards. If it isn't "us[ing] estimates for the cost of Social Security privatization based on ten years starting [in 2005], even though the program won't start up until 2009 at the earliest," it's citing an al-Qaeda official, who had previously been identified as a likely fabricator, as a "credible source" for claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members.

You may have heard about the latest. No, I don't mean 'I only had one beer, four or five hours before.' That might be true, for all I know and for all the world will ever know, since Cheney didn't discuss his shooting a man in the face with the local authorities until the next day - even though at least one law enforcement official showed up that same night at the ranch where Cheney was staying but was turned away. Nor am I referring to the lies about how close Cheney was to Harry Whittington - when Brit Hume asked if Whittington was a "close friend," Cheney replied "No, an acquaintance," yet Mary Matalin, Cheney's former communications adviser, told the New York Times that "This was a very close friend this happened to. " No, I'm referring to his claim on Fox News that he had authority to declassify documents.

Of course, this is simply another tug at the curtain that's partly hidden Cheney's self-aggrandizement behind the scenes since Bush v. Gore installed his mouthpiece on the throne. Michael O'Hare at the Reality-Based Community notes the odd reserval of the normal order of things that has transpired when a U.S. Vice President is arrogating all sorts of power to himself. In my view, the standard assessment of the office was set, not by John Nance Garner and his buckets of warm something-or-other, but by Dwight Eisenhower, who when asked during the 1960 Presidential campaign to think of a significant decision to which his VP Tricky Dick had contributed, gave the immortal answer, "If you give me a week, I might think of one." While Garner's remark could perhaps be written off as self-deprecation, Eisenhower's remark did real damage to Nixon's campaign, and has all the hallmarks of blunt honesty. (Eisenhower, by the way, gave us his warning about the creeping influence of the military-industrial complex less than a year later - what ever happened to such candor?)

In the latest demonstration of the end of that tradition of Presidential supremacy within the executive branch, Big Time Dick asserted that an executive order explicitly gives him the authority, acting unilaterally as Vice President, to declassify documents. The reason this issue came up, of course, is that his former aide Scooter Libby had claimed that he was acting on Cheney's orders when he declassified information from an intelligence estimate on Iraq to reporters. Libby is presently charged with perjury, not with leaking classified information, so despite what some bloggers are saying, Cheney's remark does not appear to be directly tailored to set up a defense to the charges Libby currently faces. Still, Libby was responding to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's questions before a grand jury, and Fitzgerald may yet announce more charges, so Cheney may after all be preparing Libby's defense.

For the moment, then, it looks less like a tag-team legal stonewall and more like an illegal powergrab (notwithstanding the fact that it may turn out to be both). Why illegal? Because, as Steve Clemons reports, no such executive order exists. Cheney can, it turns out, order information to be classified, in a case of powers being newly delegated to the Vice President by his hand puppet.... er, I mean, by the President, who amped up Big Swinging Dick's formal powers in this area back in March 2003. Neither that order, however, nor any other appears to give Cheney the right to declassify documents on his own. Declassification directives must go through a regular, careful process. Liberal Oasis explains that the authority to classify documents does not automatically entail the authority to declassify equally secret documents, and that while the VP may well have the authority unilaterally to declassify documents that he himself has previously ordered classified, that would not apply to other classified documents, and not to the national intelligence estimate which is at issue in the Libby investigation and which prompted the question on Fox.

So, just a quick little reminder: don't believe a G--damn word the man says.

No comments: