CHENEY WHO LOVES power and secrecy has been well served by a chief of staff , this Scooter Libby, but the American people have not. The too hands on control style, the two hands on the throat of intelligence and the casual but cruel, off hand approach to perceived enemies tells how this country got where it is today, at war in Iraq until doomsday abroad and a White House in free fall at home with further discovery of how that war was sold and how its opponents were scourged. In a story that goes so low, self delusion rules on high. [story]
It is a good bet that Cheney and Libby did not think they were conspiring to trash a political foe by ruining his wife's career as an undercover agent. Given their view of themselves and their roles in the world, especially post 9/11, it is much more likely they believed that they were somehow safeguarding the republic. It's also a good bet that they did not foresee the disastrous consequences of their conversation, as well as a series of others between Libby and government officials and several reporters in the summer of 2003. Libby, as well as his boss, operated, at least in their own minds on a higher plane.
WHAT HAPPENED TO VALERIE Plame is but a lens to view how Cheney and his surrogates view their role in government. In the case of the CIA before and after the war, call it cadre versus cabal. Cheney distrusts the incompetent CIA cadre so he forms his own intelligence unit to do battle. Battles over who should control intelligence and information that should take place in open instead take place in secret. No surprise the intelligence derived stays secret and unchallenged then as well. The secrecy and the willingness to trash both procedure and opposition place Cheney, Cheney’s Cheney, and his successor clearly off any government reservation. Their willingness to go against all others shows a distressing anti-democratic mindset with respect to no opinion nor judgement but their own. So those who think themselves on a higher plane sinks us down to some interminable eternity of hell. We pass and pause in one year before we continue down.
CHENEY’S CHENEY and his replacement David Addington place this White House squarely back in a time called Watergate 1974, a time when there was a need for a War Powers Act to remind the Executive Branch that only Congress can declare war and Congress must fund wars too. War and security are foremost in their minds and the war over who has power over war remains fresh in their minds. [story]
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president.
The unitary executive notion can be found in the torture memo. "In light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority in these areas," the memo said. Prohibitions on torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority. . . . Congress may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield." The same would go for "federal officials acting pursuant to the president's constitutional authority."
"The Framers understood the [commander in chief] clause as investing the president with the fullest range of power," the memo said, including "the conduct of warfare and the defense of the nation unless expressly assigned in the Constitution to Congress." That "sweeping grant" of power, it continued, is given because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."
WHO LAMENTS THE WAYS of Libby may more fear the ways of his successor Addington. Both I. Lewis Libby, the ill named Scooter, who was Cheney’s Cheney and David Addington who now takes the Chief of Staff Job under Cheney, have a love of Executive Power ungrounded in the Constitution that simply is a threat to democracy. Unasked is how a President unbound by laws in a foreign realm could then be bound in the domestic sphere. Those who see a President with a need for power in war abroad can easily find war at home or the threat of war their President would need to seize more power. This is all so simple. It is also most unamerican. If we buy into their delusion, their nightmare will be our own.
RECOMMENDED READING THE BIG ENCHILADA [Frank Rich/Truthout/ or NY Times] In our current imperial presidency, as in its antecedent, what may look like a narrow case involving a second banana with a child's name contains the DNA of the White House, and that DNA offers a road map to the duplicitous culture of the whole. The coming prosecution of Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Wilson affair is hardly the end of the story. That "Cheney's Cheney," as Mr. Libby is known, would allegedly go to such lengths to obscure his role in punishing a man who challenged the administration's W.M.D. propaganda is just one very big window into the genesis of the smoke screen (or, more accurately, mushroom cloud) that the White House used to sell the war in Iraq.
After the heat of last week's drama, we can forget just how effective the administration's cover-up of that con job had been until very recently. Before Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation, there were two separate official investigations into the failure of prewar intelligence. With great fanfare and to great acclaim, both found that our information about Saddam's W.M.D.'s was dead wrong. But wittingly or unwittingly, both of these supposedly thorough inquiries actually protected the White House by avoiding, in Watergate lingo, "the big enchilada."
SO THE HERETIK SINGS THE SONG Let’s do the time warp again. When people speak of the earlier Watergate, its corruption and its reach, one inevitably hears the refrain: It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup. But the crime and the coverup are two parts of the same poison culture. One strand jumps over the other in an endless downward spiral that leaves us twisted. THE PRICE OF LOYALTY [Alter/Newsweek] The conventional Washington explanation is that this is just old-fashioned politics. As long as you don't lie to a grand jury, there's nothing illegal here. But the consequences of a bias for loyalty over debate—even internal debate—have been devastating. The same president who seeks democracy, transparency and dissent in Iraq is irritated by it at home. O'Neill tells his story in a book by Ron Suskind called "The Price of Loyalty," and that title is the missing link in explaining the failure of the Bush presidency. The price of loyalty is incompetence. Issues don't get aired; downside risks remain unassessed.
THE HERETIK KNOWS THE SONG It’s just a jump to the left, it’s just a jump to the right. We are at the jumping point after which informed, free government crashes and burns.
ALSO RECOMMENDED MORE ON ADDINGTON [Murray Waas/National Journal] Addington shares with Cheney and Libby the view of increasing presidential power and authority and setting strict limits on the release of executive branch information to both Congress and the public.
As early as May 2001, Addington was the point person for the White House in deflecting requests by congressional Democrats and later the General Accounting Office (now named the Government Accountability Office) for information about the energy policy task force convened by Cheney's office.
During confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general, it was revealed that Addington helped draft the White House memo that concluded that the Geneva Convention against torture did not apply to prisoners captured in the war on terror. The memo declared that terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
Last May, Amnesty International called for foreign governments to launch a broad investigation into U.S. torture policies and the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. The organization included Addington among a list of officials who should be questioned for their role in writing "various legal opinions that may have provided cover for subsequent crimes."
Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration who is now in private practice, argues that the White House has pressed the issue of presidential powers and executive privilege farther than any previous administration, and far beyond what the democratic process warrants.
Addington has been part of a team that has asserted "a broad omnipotence of the president," Fein said, including the ability of the president to declare anyone an "enemy combatant" and to hold them indefinitely without legal representation.
INDICTING DICK [Empty Wheel/ The Next Hurrah] So Fitzgerald still has his work cut out for him if he thinks he's going to indict Dick anytime soon.
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