Civil Liberties

The Imperial Vice-Presidency


Just how much power does Dick Cheney think the executive branch should have? The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage has written an illuminating review of the VP's views, which have been pretty constant from the '60s to today. Put simply, Cheney doesn't like it when Congress restricts the executive, and he believes the White House is free to ignore laws that allegedly overstep the legislature's authority.

For example:

After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush sent 500,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia. As they prepared to attack the Iraqi forces, Cheney told Bush that it was unnecessary and too risky to seek a vote in Congress.

"I was not enthusiastic about going to Congress for an additional grant of authority," Cheney recalled in a 1996 PBS "Frontline" documentary. "I was concerned that they might well vote 'no' and that would make life more difficult for us."

But Bush rejected Cheney's advice and asked Congress for a vote in support of the war. The resolution passed—barely. Had Congress voted no, Cheney later said, he would have urged Bush to launch the Gulf War regardless.

"From a constitutional standpoint, we had all the authority we needed," Cheney said in the 1996 documentary. "If we'd lost the vote in Congress, I would certainly have recommended to the president that we go forward anyway."

If you're wondering how much these ideas have influenced the younger Bush, look no further than the president's signing statements.

[Via Glenn Greenwald.]