Impeach Cheney?

The Washington Post ran an amazing series this week about the unconstitutional and unprecedented power grab that is the Dick Cheney vice-presidency.  I've been too lazy to pore through the voluminous series for the best bits, figuring that at some point, somebody else would do that and I could summarize them.  I waited a few days, and former Reagan administration official, Bruce Fein, has done the job in Slate.  The highlights:

Under Dick Cheney, the office of the vice president has been
transformed from a tiny acorn into an unprecedented giant oak. In
grasping and exercising presidential powers, Cheney has dulled
political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and
Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III. The most recent invention we know of
is the vice president's insistence that an executive order governing
the handling of classified information in the executive branch does not
reach his office because he also serves as president of the Senate. In
other words, the vice president is a unique legislative-executive
creature standing above and beyond the Constitution. The House
judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As
Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable
offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney's multiple
crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify…

The vice president asserted presidential power to create military
commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor
in the trial of war crimes. The Supreme Court rebuked Cheney in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy
combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president's say-so
alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI's
execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille. The Supreme Court repudiated Cheney in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in
Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists. This
lawlessness has been answered in Germany and Italy with criminal
charges against CIA operatives or agents. The legal precedent set by
Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to
kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in
Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies…

In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the
policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy
intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice
president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his
sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Not that it will happen, but it beyond the shadow of a doubt that Cheney deserves impeachment far more than Bill Clinton ever did. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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