Sunday, December 03, 2006

If you think that, you don't know Dick...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, November gave us a victory for freedom and the American Way, right? The Democrats were swept into office by a wave of people who finally got tired of being lied to, and for the next two years, Bush and his cronies are going to find their hands tied, right? They won't be able to launch any bizarre neocon plots, and butterflies and puppies will rain down on the people of this once-great land, right?

Don't be too sure.

Yes, Democrats now have a majority in both houses of Congress, but don't think that's going to change anything. The next two years are probably going to be one fight after another, with George Bush trying to do something, Congress shooting him down, and Bush going ahead and doing it anyway. And why?

Two words: Dick Cheney.

Cheney has been a big supporter of the President-as-King theory of democracy (or, in the more graceful Republican-talk, the "unitary executive") for much of his career. Or, at least, that part of his career where he served under Republicans, anyway.

You see, that's the rough part about being a politician. Your life becomes public record. And people like Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe can turn up all kinds of fun facts about you. Like the time in July 1987, when Cheney was talking about the Boland Amendment, which banned aide to anti-Marxist militants in Nicaragua. To be exact, Cheney said "I personally do not believe the Boland Amendment applied to the president, nor to his immediate staff."

You remember that point in the Reagan administration? It was called "Iran-Contra" - a bunch of the president's aides were selling arms to one group of terrorists in Iran, so that they could funnel money to another group of terrorists in Nicaragua. And Cheney said to the committee investigating Iran-Contra that the president didn't have to follow the laws passed by Congress.

Before that, in December 1974, during the Ford administration (with Cheney as Deputy Chief of Staff), Seymour Hersh, writing for the New York Times, disclosed that the CIA was tapping phones, opening mail, and breaking into the homes of anti-war protesters. (Sound familiar? That's what Bush keeps trying to do.) And when Democrat Frank Church of Idaho headed up a Senate committee that started investigating the CIA's role in all of this, Cheney wrote that they needed to head off "congressional efforts to further encroach on the executive branch."

A few months later, when Hersh wrote an article about US subs spying on the Soviet Union, Cheney wanted to have Hersh arrested.
Making an example out of Hersh, Cheney wrote, would "create an environment" that might intimidate both the press and Congress. "Can we take advantage of it to bolster our position on the Church Committee investigation? To point out the need for limits on the scope of the investigations?" Cheney wrote. The idea, however, was scrapped to avoid attracting the Soviets' attention to Hersh's article.
And later, as Bush 41's defense secretary, Cheney didn't like the idea of telling Congress that troops were about to attack Iraqi's in Kuwait. In the 1996 PBS Frontline documentary, Cheney explained "I was not enthusiastic about going to Congress for an additional grant of authority. I was concerned that they might well vote 'no' and that would make life more difficult for us... From a constitutional standpoint, we had all the authority we needed. If we'd lost the vote in Congress, I would certainly have recommended to the president that we go forward anyway."

That's the way Cheney thinks. He honestly believes, just like Nixon, that "when the president does it, that means it's not illegal." Cheney said on ABC This Week in January 2002, "in 34 years, I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job." And he wants to do all he can to make the president all-powerful. (Do you really think that a C-student and frat-boy came up with the idea of the "signing statement" on his own?)

And he's doing it again. In the November 27 issue of the New Yorker, Hersh reported that, a month before the midterm elections, Cheney was in a national security roundtable.
"If the Democrats won on November 7th, the vice president said, that victory would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran," Hersh wrote, citing a source familiar with the discussion.

Cheney said the White House would circumvent any legislative restrictions "and thus stop Congress from getting in its way," he said.
So, unless Congress is willing to take firm action and get oversight on everything that the president and vice president do, we could very well get into another endless war in the Middle East. And there are still people out there who'd support it, too.

There is one thing that we can do. It will never become law, because very few politicians are willing to have their names attached to it, but the first thing we need to do is institute a draft. Because Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has it right: the only way that a lot of the American public are going to oppose going to war is if their children are definitely going to be in the foxholes. War is good for business - look how much money companies like Halliburton (and, uh... former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney...) have made off this last one.

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