Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Was Dick Cheney Unconstitutional?

Law professor Glenn Reynolds explores that question in
this recent law review essay. His findings: the kind of extreme delegation of presidential authority to the VP that happened in the Bush-Cheney administration was probably unconstitutional. That finding carries all the more weight given that Reynolds is a conservative, and the man behind a widely followed conservative blog, Instapundit. Naturally, we've had plenty of mentions of the nefarious one over the last six-plus years. But we'd especially point you to this uniquely impressive piece by the New Yorker's Jane Meyer (which we picked as the best magazine article of 2006), which was the first to comprehensively document how the Veep's office hijacked the presidency. The Washington Post's Barton Gellman followed up not long after that with an equally impressive and richly reported series (which ultimately won him a Pulitzer) about Cheney. It was eventually expanded into a book. As long as you're on the subject, I'd also recommend a well-done piece published in The Nation a few months ago, which explored Cheney's "dispiriting legacy." Here's hoping Obama's Attorney General, tarred by his own ethically compromised past during the Clinton Administration (he shamefully approved a pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich), will withstand the pressure from centrists and the Obama kumbaya crowd and appoint a special prosecutor to look into the question of torture and related outrages. Nothing works better than light as a disinfectant, and this dark chapter in American history should not be forgotten, but culled for lessons about how to prevent its reoccurrence.

16 Comments:

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

I'm as happy as anyone that that time in history is behind us, but I also believe that there are so many problems in the country to resolve right now that our leaders should keep the drumbeat pounding for new initiatives, rather than looking backward. I don't think our country has the attention span to focus on too many things at once. Let's get out of the recession and the wars and then let's go back and correct past injustices. You probably disagree, but I can be very singularly focused.

I also think that the government is behind your odd capchas. The've infiltrated Blogger and now anyone who agrees with you is 'unkindi".

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes, there is PLENTY of merit to that notion, Donna. You share it with many, including of course Obama. And I agreed with that myself, at least until some more recent and even worse revelations continued to seep out (the latest of which is that Cheney apparently affirmatively ordered that information be kept from Congress, which I think anyone who has watched this already knew full well, but which has now been documented). It's made me reluctantly move to the other side on this issue.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

You have to draw a line, at some point, between what is tolerable and what is not. The line in question involves trampling on civil rights, on Constitutional guarantees, and on ethical principles. Cheney was over that line from 9/11 on, in pretty much every way. HIs record of actions and comments speaks to this.

The documentation is going to continue to reveal a long list of abuses, violations, outright illegalities, and more.

Yes, we DO all want to move forward. But we cannot really move forward without addressing all this Really Bad Stuff. To ignore it, to diminish it, to sweep it under the rug, to not address it is to tacitly give the message that it was all okay to do, and that it would therefore be okay to do again. Where do you draw that line between "moving on" and "enough is enough"? I know where I draw it.

You'll note how the Republicans never once let go of Clinton, from day one. They undermined everything he did. The Lewinsky thing was pretty much a hatchet job. And it was all about gaining and controlling power. It is not even remotely even-handed or objective to say that what Cheney did does not need a special investigation, while Clinton was investigated by how many? Three? I forget the number of special prosecutors; but that bone was never let go of, once it was started. It spent millions of taxpayer dollars. How can anyone say that Cheney's actions, were are KNOWN to have been even greater crimes than any of Clinton's (and I'm not a Clinton apologist, so let go of THAT notion), shouldn't been prosecuted, or at least investigated?

So the "forgiveness" thing is not really non-partisan, when many of those voting to overlook Cheney's foibles directly participated in them, or peripherally agreed with or profited from them. Anyone remember Enron anymore?

If you really want to continue to undermine the average public voter's confidence in politicians AND in the system itself, then feel free to "move on" without addressing any of the Cheney issues, much less the torture issue. But that only perpetuates the disconnect between D.C. and the rest of the country, it only underlines the problems, and it tacitly gives permission for the next round of politicians to do it all over again!

So, sorry, it is not ignorable, nor is any of it forgivable. Nor should it be. Nixon at least resigned. Bush/Cheney never even believed they needed to. And THAT is a very telling difference.

And that's where I draw the line. No free lunch for those who deliberately violate the Constitution.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The heart of your argument is simply that to leave this unchallenged is to tacitly approve it, and thus send the signal to successive administrations that this kind of stuff is okay. That's the most important point for me as well, Art. There's also a crucial additional motivation here for Obama, as for all presidents, in wanting to make this stuff go away, which we should make explicit. It has to do with the presidential version of the old MAD (or mutually assured destruction) dynamic that kept the Soviet and American nuclear arsenals in check. If you bomb me, I'll bomb you. Every president is eager not to disturb his predecessor's hornets nests, lest his successor do the same to him. Which is why we can't afford to leave politics just to the politicians.

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

Well, I don't want to get into a never-ending argument with Art, BUT, it would really undermine my confidence as a voter, if the president is unable to keep the promises he made during the election to improve the lives of Americans.

He is trying his darnedest to keep Congress focused on passing a health care initiative so that people like my unemployed friends don't need to worry about their kids getting sick with no affordable health care until they can get back on their feet.

Is there a statute of limitations on calling Mr. Cheney on the carpet? If not, let's keep our attention focused on an issue that is threatening to bankrupt so many Americans.

That, in my view, is making sure that justice is done. Then go back and redress these grievances with the ex-veep.

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I'd surely be happy with that order of tackling problems, Donna. I'm just increasingly worried that significant health reform is going to fail again, as it has since Truman's presidency, because of opposition from the industry. The doctors (through the AMA) were enough to fend it off back then, but now you have big pharma and health insurers added into the mix. It's getting hard to see how it's going to happen, but I sure hope I'm wrong about that, because if we don't fix this, little else is going to matter.

And I hope these feel more like friendly debates than arguments to everyone. That's the tone we always try to maintain, with lots of help from everyone.

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

I'm using the word argument as a synonym for debate - not as a synonym for a spat.

I believe all those players you mentioned had a role in killing reform during the Clinton administration and I think that even they now realize that the system as it is now will not be able to sustain itself.

In this system of capitalism, I believe there comes a time when those providing a service start realizing that they won't prosper if nobody can afford their service anymore. There may need to be some tough decisions on the kind of care that is offered and some of us may feel we are getting less, but I think we need to listen to the arguments carefully and understand the financial implications. We are all in this together.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Let's hope you're right that even the various industry players recognize big changes are inevitable, Donna. You're in the health care industry yourself, and thus have a lot more insight than most people. So I'm counting on you to personally see that it gets done!

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Donna, if I had any faith that the order or priorities you propose would mean that Cheney's prosecution would actually happen, I might more readily agree with you. However, the most basic tactic lawyers use in such cases is delay tactics. They are well aware that the public has a short attention span, and gets bored. The first thing Cheney's lawyers would try to do, if it came to actual charges being laid, would be delaying tactics. The longer they can delay things, the more likely it is to all go away. Not even the best trial lawyers and judges have unlimited patience and unlimited attention spans.

My point here is that your proposed order of events makes it into an either/or argument when it's not. It's perfectly possible for Obama to do his best to fulfill his campaign promises AND to do the right thing about cleaning up the messes he was left with by the previous Administration—which BTW was one of his campaign promises, i.e. cleaning up their messes. That's one promise coming from him that I do believe. I believed it when he campaigned, and I still believe it. I also know how hard it can be when the entire system is trying to tie your hands. Therefore, I don't think public pressure to Do Nothing (or do it later) helps. Because delay means that it will never really get resolved.

There's no reason they can't address as many of these issues as possible at the same time. You effectively stipulate that cleaning up health care is more important than pursuing criminals. I might even agree with you—except for the truth that the criminals in question are also in part responsible for messing up health care. They're very much interrelated and tied together.

They're not separate issues. They CAN be addressed at the same time, rather than sequentially. All the politicians really lack is the will to do so.

Because handling these issues sequentially means that some of these issues will actually never get addressed. That IS tacit compliance with them. There's a reason some crimes are called unforgivable.

And so ignoring all this would undermine MY confidence as a voter, too. Because it was a campaign promise.

As for significant health reform happening soon—I have very little confidence in that, because the Republicans don't really want it to happen. I had this very discussion with a professional insurance agent this afternoon. Neither of us believe that the "medical-industrial" really wants anything but to protect their outrageous profits. I wish Pres. Obama all the best with getting something, ANYTHING done to improve our current very dysfunctional state of healthcare. I support even the ideas that I, as the soon of a doctor, might have quibbles about. (So I'm not ignorant of the health care issues at all.)

So I'm not very hopeful. There's a LOT of people who will try to undermine every possible change proposed, purely on the grounds that they don't really want any changes made, because they profit from the status quo.

The pharmaceutical companies are in fact the driving force behind most of what is wrong with health care now. And they have BILLIONS to throw at protecting their profits, via lobbyists, etc.

 
At 10:07 PM, Anonymous your ignorant friend said...

Powerfully written stuff today, wow. You bring up points of view I have not taken the time to think about, and now must consider. It is mind stretching and morally challenging. Good discussion too. I wish Obama and company could go back over stimulus bill and fine tune it.

Off the subject, but my dad told me about going to the Berea Historical Society (never had heard of it) where they had a death mask of Abraham Lincoln. I guess a cast had been made of his face and hands after his death. I had never heard of such a thing. My parents couldn’t get over the size of his hands. Thought it might be something you’d get a kick out of. If you decide to compare hand sizes and imagine what it might have been like to play basketball with him if he'd grown up next door to you, call before you go in case it was on loan or something, ok? They have a website w/ contact info, but I couldn’t find anything on site about Lincoln display.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Lincoln is the gift that keeps giving, a secular saint that's more alive in memory than most people are in actual life. He's also ubiquitous. Even as this was being posted, I happened to be watching a charming little PBS program about the Lincoln Highway, an historic national road that continues to doggedly cling to life only out of the collective respect for the fallen prez. If you get a chance to see it replayed, you won't be disappointed:

http://www.wqed.org/tv/sebak/lincoln_hwy/

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Kim said...

I'm always hesitant to make brushstroke sweeping political statements. Those who know me can surmise where my personal views are. I respect any person who has taken time to consider their opinion, even if it doesn't line up with mine.

But when it comes to the issue of health care reform, I want to note that EVERY industrialized country routinely examines and overhauls their health care system. There ARE no simple/easy/one size fits all solutions, but right now the size our US has doesn't fit anyone very well.

I read a comment that once that resonated; health care reform is like remodeling a kitchen. It always takes longer and costs more than you think, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done.

John, you know from my blog, that I really would like to see MORE insistence on HEALTH care not SICK care. I think we have forgotten that our priority should be taking care of our bodies so we don't GET sick. Yesterday's WSJ (pg D3) had an excellent article about the cost of treating obesity. THIS is something I hate the idea of paying for. In 2008, the article says, obesity related disease cost over $147 BILLION!

I would like to see built in incentives for people to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise. THEN we can worry about TRUE sickness care, not self induced sickness.

Again, my verification code is fitting... nutriz! I'm so easily amused.

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Kim said...

PS. (and sorry to hijack your blog)...

Just because you're remodeling the kitchen doesn't mean you need to close down the whole house, if that analogy makes sense.

There is accoutability, and if we're talking about personal responsibility, we must call those who were irresponsible at the cost of millions of other folks. Cheney should be indicted to the fullest extent. My humble opinion.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Kim, be my guest--hijack away to your heart's delight. You're right about wellness care and education. That's indeed where the entire health care system needs to head, rather than its traditional orientation around addressing disease. It is headed there in fits and starts (in our back yard, the bellwether Cleveland Clinic is launching a giant Wellness Center initiative in just a few weeks), but the entire health care financing system needs a lot more structural incentives before it truly makes wellness the paramount concern. In every industry, you tend to get the kind of outcomes that people are paid to achieve. Let's hope our legislators get moving on that part of it.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Kim said...

When my spouse used to work for one of the auto companies, the first thing they closed when there was budget cuts was the work out facility at the plant.

What a sad choice by a company that was bemoaning the escalating costs of health insurance.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Boy is that a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot. Dumb companies tend to have all kinds of trouble in the marketplace, but that kind of stupidity and shortsightedness is appalling.

 

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