Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How far will "Big Dick" Cheney go to get whatever the hell he wants? We might equally well ask, "How deep is the ocean? How high are the stars?"


"Vice Presidential staff have previously testified before Congress and I am aware of no authority -- and counsel's letter cites none -- for the proposition that such staff could be immune from testimony before Congress."
--House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers [right], responding to the VP's office's latest preposterous claims that his staff isn't accountable to Congress, no way, no how

Am I the only one who did a double take, and then giggled, at the opening line of Dan Froomkin's Washingtonpost.com column today, "Cheney's Total Impunity"? You tell me:

"How far will Vice President Cheney go to shield himself and his office from public scrutiny?"

How far will Vice President Cheney go??? Doesn't the very act of asking such a question suggest that somewhere in the universe there exists some limit to how far this vice president will go to get what he wants? Does anyone really believe that such a limit exists?

Let's say someone had asked back in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, "How far will Vice President Cheney go to get us into war in Iraq?" Can anyone think of anything, anything at all, he wouldn't--in fact didn't--do?

So the latest blunt refusal to offer up Cheney chief of staff David Addington for congressional testimony runs true to form. Indeed it's heartening to see that stripping Big Dick's boy Irving Libby from the team hasn't led to any diminution of the gall and effrontery level. Because, of course, the Dickster still has Addington, the remaining half of his old pair of Spawns of Satan Bookends, on the job.

And the loads of crap these so-called legal geniuses of the Bush regime come up with--my goodness, if you submitted one of these briefs as a paper in a Government 101 class, you'd be lucky to come away with an F-minus.

Here's our Dan's take on the latest round:

Cheney's Total Impunity

By Dan Froomkin

How far will Vice President Cheney go to shield himself and his office from public scrutiny?

Last spring, Cheney asserted that he wasn't subject to executive-branch rules about classified information because he wasn't actually part of the executive branch.

Now his office argues that he and his staff are completely immune from congressional oversight. That's right: Completely immune.

Cheney's latest claim came in a response to a House Judiciary Committee request for vice presidential chief of staff David S. Addington to testify about his central role in developing the administration's torture policies.

Cheney lawyer Kathryn L. Wheelbarger wrote back: "Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by a law what a Vice President communicates in the performance of the Vice President's official duties, or what a Vice President recommends that a President communicate in the President's performance of official duties, and therefore those matters are not within the Committee's power of inquiry."

As it happens, that was only one of three startling responses in Wheelbarger's letter.

She also wrote: "The Chief of Staff to the Vice President is an employee of the Vice President, and not the President, and therefore is not in a position to speak on behalf of the President."

Disregard, for a moment, the fact that Addington wasn't actually asked to speak on behalf of the president - but about his "unique information and perspective." Contrary to Wheelbarger's central assertion, Addington actually does work for the president. When he took over the job previously held by Scooter Libby -- who has since been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case -- Addington also inherited Libby's title as "assistant to the president." See, for instance, his official White House profile.

Cheney's office somehow managed to omit Addington from the White House staff list submitted to Congress. But Addington isn't on Cheney's public Senate payroll either.

Finally, Wheelbarger cites, "separate from any question of immunity from testimony," questions of privilege "protecting state secrets, attorney-client communications, deliberations, and communications among Presidents, Vice Presidents, and their advisers."

In a letter to Addington, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers yesterday lamented Wheelbarger's "legalistic and argumentative response" and warned that if Addington refuses to appear voluntarily, he may be subpoenaed. (Conyers issued the same threat to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, both of whom also declined to appear voluntarily.)

The Conyers letter cites media reports that describe Addington as the driving force behind the administration's most controversial legal arguments. Among the citations: Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, Phillippe Sands in Vanity Fair, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in the Washington Post and Chitra Ragavan in U.S. News.

And Conyers notes: "Vice Presidential staff have previously testified before Congress and I am aware of no authority -- and counsel's letter cites none -- for the proposition that such staff could be immune from testimony before Congress."

He also attempts to turn one of Cheney's arguments against him: "While the issue of the immunity of senior advisors to the President is currently under litigation, there has been no suggestion that such immunity, even if recognized, would reach to the Vice President's office, an entity that, as you well know, is constitutionally quite different from the Office of the President.

"As to privilege, such concerns are traditionally and appropriately raised in response to specific questions and not as a threshold reason to decline a Congressional Committee's invitation to appear."

And Conyers concludes: "Presumably, you believe that whatever actions you took were necessary and comported with the law; in such circumstances, I cannot imagine why you would decline to appear and set the record straight. The American people deserve no less."

I know it gets tiresome to keep repeating it, but that's not going to stop me from asking once again how far anyone thinks the loyal squadrons of Republican rubber-stampers--in government and in the media--will tolerate the assertion of even the slightest privilege from the next Democratic president. Why don't we get together a pool to predict the exact decibel level of the right-wing stuck pigs' squealing?

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