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Cheney's the One
By Roy Ulrich
The nation is abuzz with talk of Presidential impeachment. But House speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the subject "off the table." And the reason she gives is compelling: the Democratic majority will be overplaying its hand, just as the Gingrich crowd did in 1998. The voters, the argument goes, expect less partisanship and more actual accomplishments from the newly-installed Democratic majority.
While this argument is persuasive with respect to President Bush, the same cannot be said of Vice President Cheney. First, as a purely political matter, we should not forget that Mr. Cheney's poll numbers are even lower than his putative boss. A scant 18% of Americans have a favorable view of the Vice President.
Obviously, Bush would remain President even if Cheney were removed from office. All that the President would lose is one of his two brains, the other one belonging to his top political aide. The President would still be able to carry out his normal duties until January of 2009 without having to worry about his own hide. Of course, he would have one additional duty: naming a replacement for the deposed Vice President. That person, in turn, would be subject to confirmation by both houses of Congress. Thus, the likelihood is we would end up with a less divisive figure as Veep than the current occupant of that office.
The case against Mr. Cheney is in some ways stronger than the case against Mr. Bush. Consider the ongoing trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby taking place in the nation's capitol. Testimony to date has pretty much established that Libby was a simple pawn in the Veep's ongoing campaign to steer the United States into war in Iraq. When Mr. Cheney takes the stand as a defense witness, we will hopefully learn the answers to at least some of the following questions:
1. Did the Vice President sanction the leak of Valerie Plame's name to syndicated columnist
2. Did he know what Valerie Plame actually did at the CIA?
3. Was he aware that his top aide was telling the FBI apparently false information?
4. Inasmuch as he knew that the intelligence for the war had been cooked, was he
involved in a cover-up?
And, in the event there is an impeachment trial in the Senate, we will hopefully learn about the role oil played in the run-up to the war. As Halliburton's former CEO, Mr. Cheney profited substantially from the no-bid contracts awarded to the company. An important question that needs an answer is what part, if any, did Mr. Cheney play in securing these contracts.
Nor should we forget that it is Mr. Cheney who has been the main proponent of the "unitary executive." In his view, Presidential power is almost without limits. As a consequence, we have everything from signing statements to repeated violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, both of which show utter contempt for the legislative branch. The most explicit exposition of this view comes from John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer and author of a 2002 memo sanctioning torture of U.S. detainees in violation of the Geneva conventions and the War Powers Act of 1996.
To those who argue that the Senate will never be able secure the 2/3 vote necessary to secure a conviction, there are two simple rejoinders:
We have not heard Mr. Cheney's testimony at the Libby trial; and the exact role Mr. Cheney played in securing
the Halliburton contracts in Iraq can and should be determined during an impeachment trial in the Senate.
What is clear is that no other man in the history of this country has consistently abused his office in an effort to undermine democratic principles as has Dick Cheney.
Roy Ulrich is a public interest lawyer, consumer advocate, and public radio broadcaster who lives in Santa Monica. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in Communications and Public Policy, Mr. Ulrich went on to receive his law degree from California Western University in San Diego in 1969. He specializes in drafting legislation and initiatives on behalf of public interest groups. In that capacity, he serves as President of the California Tax Reform Association and sits on the board of directors of California Common Cause. Mr. Ulrich has written for the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Nation magazine, among other publications.