Sunday, September 10, 2006

Slip, Slidin' Away

Today's NY Times has a facinating, long article on the diminution of Vice-Emperor Dick Cheney's influence in the White House. Written by David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, the article traces the rise and then the waning of Mr. Cheney's power in the regime, and does so by pointing to the earlier 'victories' and the recent set-backs.

From those first moments five years ago when Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Dick Cheney’s office on Sept. 11, lifted him off his feet and propelled him to the underground Presidential Emergency Operations Center, the man who had returned to Washington that year to remake the powers of the presidency seemed unstoppable.

Within minutes, Mr. Cheney was directing the government’s response to an attack that was still under way. Within weeks, he was overseeing the surveillance program that tracked suspected terrorist communications into and out of the United States without warrants. Within months, he and his staff, guided by a loyal aide, David S. Addington, were championing the reinterpretation of the rules of war so that they could detain “enemy combatants” and interrogate them at secret detention facilities run by the C.I.A. around the world.

It was Mr. Cheney and his staff who helped shape the rules under which members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were denied some of the core rights of the Geneva Conventions and would be tried by “military commissions” at Guantánamo Bay — if they faced trial at all.

...There is little question that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney still share the goal of expanding the power of the presidency: legislation they have sent to Congress would essentially allow them to set the rules of evidence, define interrogation techniques and intercept domestic communications as they have for the past five years.

But they have been stymied in their effort to simply assert those powers and carry them out with minimal oversight, as part of Mr. Cheney’s declared goal to restore to the presidency an authority that he believed was dangerously eroded after Vietnam and Watergate.

I would have placed the rise of Mr. Cheney's power earlier in the administration, perhaps at the point he called in the energy executives to a secret meeting, but it has been clear to most of us that it has been Mr. Cheney's voice calling the shots for the past five years. This article, however, brings out details that when placed in context show just how far the administration has gone to usurp as much power from the other branches of government and how successful it was in doing so.

Why the sudden decline in Mr. Cheney's power? The article suggests that the loss of Scooter Libby (currently under indictment for lying in the Valerie Plame matter) is a big reason. Mr. Libby was the "eyes and ears" of the Vice Emperor in Washington. I'm not so sure that is such a big reason. I think Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush and the rest of the administration quite simply overplayed their collective hand. When you intrude on the fiefdoms of Congress too often, sooner or later there is going to be a push-back. And when you lose people like Senator John Warner and Senator Lindsey Graham, you have lost a great deal.

Further, this administration has simply been too wrong and too incompetent too many times. From Iraq, to Katrina, to the economy, to foreign affairs, to spying illegally on Americans, the American public has finally noticed just how poorly it has been served by the administration and by Congress. That's dangerous to the party in power when it's an election year, which this is.

My cavils aside, the article is pretty well-written and reasonably well-sourced. It's worth the five minutes it will take to read it in its entirety.


Post a Comment

<< Home