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June 28, 2007

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It's all a bit of a game to Emanuel, but he can be quite good at it. I've never been fonder of my Congressman than this week.

Yeah, I'm not even remotely a Rahm Emmanuel fan, but this is bumping him up a bit in my estimation. I hope he really goes through with it.

I also am not so crazy about RE sometimes, but this is good. Absolutely nothing wrong with theatre if it's good theatre, BTW. This is one of those good ideas (a no-brainer, actually) that first popped up in the blogosphere, and it's nice to see someone in congress not ignore it or wait too long or flub it, for a change. It should go without saying that not every idea that pops up on the intertoobz is worth persuing, but Addington and Cheney are SO asking for it in this case.

It also shows timing-savvy - Washington DC is a truly weird place - coming as it does on the heels of Sally Quinn's odd op-ed. It concerns me not at all that these things probably won't directly result in the replacement of Cheney. It's always worth it to keep chipping away...

Seriously: Cheney has always acted as though the laws, the Constitution, the Congress, and the will of the American people were just annoying impediments standing between him and what he wanted to do. He has always tried to brush them, meaning us, aside as though we were annoying flies to be flicked away, not taken seriously. He is wrong. The laws and the Constitution are absolute constraints on his actions.

While this is right, it's not the whole story. The Constitution and laws aren't simply constraints; they're advice. The Constitution is the result of a lot of deeply engaged people, at a time of existential threat to the nation, thinking very hard about how a government should be run in the best long-term interests of the country. If what you want to do is unconstitutional, that should at the very least make you stop and think about whether it's a good idea in the first place. It's foolish to ignore all that good advice.

Boy, do I disagree. I'm not much for these kinds of stunts, I'm much more aligned with the move to issue subpoenas and compel testimony on the record. These kinds of games may work and they may not, but they seem pretty silly to me. I'm not interested in going down to the Fox News level of debate on these issues, they're too important.

Reading the Sally Quinn article: good grief, they think their problems can be solved by putting another actor in the White House? Nostalgia for Ronald Reagan?

So, legally, what happens if Cheney continues to defy the subpoenas?

"The panel’s action was the most aggressive move yet by lawmakers to investigate the wiretapping program since the Democrats gained control of Congress this year."

Given that this programme is not only prima facie illegal, but has been found so by a federal judge and by the former head of the FISA court, that's pretty depressing.

Democrats of good faith can differ over Emmanuel's tendency toward DLC-ish tactics, but the guy's always been a firecracker. I don't think I've ever sent a letter or email to my congressperson, but I'm tempted to do so with respect to support for cutting Cheney's funds. It's just that funny.

OT - so, I somehow ended up eating dinner next to David Broder last night (at least I'm pretty sure it was him). He orders a "very dry" martini and sends it back, not once, not twice, but three freaking times, the last time saying "it's still got vermouth in it."

Patterico has a post up reminding us that Cheney invoked executive privilege to avoid disclosing who he met with when forming an energy policy. So he was apparently part of the executive branch at some point.

OT: There is some kind of delicious irony here, though I can’t quite put my finger on it. Andrew was highlighted by Michelle Malkin yesterday.

"While this is right, it's not the whole story. The Constitution and laws aren't simply constraints; they're advice.... If what you want to do is unconstitutional, that should at the very least make you stop and think about whether it's a good idea in the first place."

If what you want to do is unconstitutional, it's frankly against the law. And if you've sworn to uphold the Constitution, you're in violation of your oath.

The Bible is good advice...the Constitution is the fundamental component of our laws. Respectfully, I think you're softening the case.

zmulls: The Bible is good advice...the Constitution is the fundamental component of our laws. Respectfully, I think you're softening the case.

The Bible is terrible advice. But, that aside, what I took that to mean: "It's not just illegal, it's a very bad idea!"

So, legally, what happens if Cheney continues to defy the subpoenas?

First, they would likely pass a resolution that essentially says "We really meant it," followed by a Contempt of Congress citation. Anywhere along the way, they can remove him from office through impeachment and conviction, though I don't expect them to do it too quickly or only for the stonewall. I wonder if Alcee Hastings would be the one who gets to introduce the motion for impeachment.

"It's not just illegal, it's a very bad idea!"

Like learning interrogation techniques from 24.

Hankp:
"Boy, do I disagree. I'm not much for these kinds of stunts, I'm much more aligned with the move to issue subpoenas and compel testimony on the record. These kinds of games may work and they may not, but they seem pretty silly to me. I'm not interested in going down to the Fox News level of debate on these issues, they're too important."

Boy, do I disagree. Fox News is taken very seriously by a large percentage of the population precisely because of the theater they use. This kind of theater is primarily for one purpose, to bring this into the consciousness of the American people. Most people won't pay any attention to the details of what is happening unless they egt a good poke in the rear, and that is what Emanuel is trying to provide.

And the same goes for using subpoena power. The point is not the issuing of the subpoenas per se, but rather the situation when they are ignored. Most Americans, IMO, do want to see the executive branch held accountable, and it will be very hard for Republicans in Congress to defend the administration refusing to comply with them.

I'm beginning to think the time for theater and stunts has to end. It suggests to my mind that what Cheney is doing isn't all that serious, if the response to it isn't all that serious.

In fact, in general, watching the entire nation's response to Bush and Cheney is like watching the hero about to be attached by the monster in a movie and feeling the need to, but not actually, yelling "Look Out." In other words, it seems imperative to do something on one level, but it seems (surreally) OK to let it continue on another because we assume the hero will find some way to survive the attack.

The whole thing is surreal. If half the rhetoric is true, Cheney is doing serious damage to the country. When, then, we see footage of him accepting applause at some fund-raiser or whatever, it's so incredibly incongrous to my mind. He should be in shackles, my mind says. Why is he accpeting applause?

Stunts like Emanuel's suggest to me that, on some level, what he's doing is OK. He's just a movie monster.

I'm a big fan to the Constitution (right up there on my list of favorite documents ever). But despite all of the wisdom encased in that document it fails on one serious point. That is providing a clear job definition of the work that the vice president should do.

The original document stated that the vice president should be the person who came in second in the general election (which honestly makes impeaching the president so much more appealing). The 12th amendment changed the manner by which we elect vice presidents but the document as a whole leaves very little clarity on what the office is responsible for.

I don't have a problem with the fact that the President has delegated significant amounts of power to the VP. In his own way Cheney is a very capable administrator with a lifetime of Washington experience.

The problem is who do you assign blame to when he does something wrong. As obscene as it seems the office of the VP is not a normal cabinet office. He is an elected official and serves at the will of the people. Everyone else is nominated and approved by the Senate and serves at the pleasure of the President.

The motion to defend the office of the vice president as part of the executive branch is indeed theater and is in my opinion low theater. As a matter of tradition the VP is a member of the executive branch. If he is breaking the rules, congress shouldn't act like an unhappy parent and withhold his allowance. They should follow the steps that are granted them in the Constitution. That is impeach him.

The hard part is deciding who to impeach. Do you impeach the President for poor delegation or do you impeach the Vice President for breaking the laws that he was given to enforce.

I say impeach them both. The vice president has broken laws and ignored the constitution. He has abused the trust of the American people and it should not be permitted.

However, to return to my previous point, the job of VP is not defined beyond Senate tie breaker and presidential understudy. Therefore any additional power that he holds is delegated from the President. As we say in the military you can delegate authority but never responsibility. The president of the United States has granted incredible power to the VP. Failure to ensure that that power is used correctly leaves him just as guilty.

****
(This rant turned out a lot longer then I planned...sorry for anyone that was in a rush).

The Vice President only has powers delegated to him by the President. But is he has broken laws or otherwise violated his oath of office (which is a different standard), he can and should be impeached.

Whether to impeach the President or not for delegating such powers to the Vice-President reflects very poorly on his judgement, and could be grounds to impeach. Though the argument will be made that with Cheney gone, things will certainly get better.

(The best scenario for a Cheney impeachment is if Bush thinks he can scapegoat Cheney with everything that has gone wrong -- "Dang, that guy messed up all the good things I wuz trying to do")

Impeachment does not have to be for a specifically criminal act, and that needs to be an educational component of any discussion. If the President sits on the couch drinking beer and watching ESPN all day, it would be grounds for impeachment, though it would not be criminal.

there will be no impeachment, there will be no censure. there won't even be a downturn in his poll numbers (the public already hates him - even the 28%-er crazies).

unless there are going to be consequences (and everybody knows there aren't going to be any consequences) this really is just more theater.

Edward_: I think theater has its place, when two things are true: first, the basic point you're trying to make is true, and second, it badly needs to be made in a bunch of different forms.

In this particular case, I think it's not just theater directed at us, it's also theater directed at Cheney, who doesn't seem to get the idea that his actions have consequences via more normal modes of communication.

My real hope, of course, is that they actually defund him.

cleek: unless there are going to be consequences (and everybody knows there aren't going to be any consequences) this really is just more theater.

Well, yeah. But good theater. *makes popcorn*

If the President sits on the couch drinking beer and watching ESPN all day, it would be grounds for impeachment,

No, zmulls; at the moment, it would be grounds for celebration.

The power to defund isn't just a matter of "theater"--it's one of the crucial ways in which Congress can act to restrain the executive branch. The founding fathers would have approved, although Charles I would have had a lot of sympathy for Cheney's situation . . .

Edward_,

"I'm beginning to think the time for theater and stunts has to end."

It will not until we as a country decide that the problems we are facing require actual solutions, and not merely more of the same. We have not yet reached what Straus and Hahn describe as the Fourth Turning, where the society begins to act as if it really is in a crisis, and demands an end to the sideshows. Their theory suggests it will be "soon" by historical standards, but how soon is anyone's guess.

I know what you're saying Hilzoy, and generally agree that Cheney is apparently immune to more conventional means of messaging, but defunding strikes me as playing along with his logic and his assertion that he, and not Bush, makes the rules. The President, if he were a real President, should be offended and demanding, no, writing Cheney's resignation letter. What all this says to me is we've already had a coup in the Executive Branch, and Bush is too much of a wimp to admit it publically or is, more likely, a willing participant in how things are really being run. Seriously, if half of what we sense is true, the entire nation should be wholly outraged. We're being led by the Vice President.

But my real objection to the theatrics is they will serve to weaken the case for impeachment in that they'll water down the seriousness of the offenses.

rea: The power to defund isn't just a matter of "theater"--it's one of the crucial ways in which Congress can act to restrain the executive branch.

Sure. If Congress actually does it. Their record in standing up to Bush and Cheney against the powers of the executive is, at this point, something like zero? They cracked over the Iraqi funding bill almost immediately, for example.

Threatening to defund Cheney, like sending Cheney subpoenas without enforcing them, is theater.

The power to defund isn't just a matter of "theater"--it's one of the crucial ways in which Congress can act to restrain the executive branch.

This is a very valid point. I think I jump to calling it theater because it seems like a glib response to a very serious issue. The Vice President has on multiple occasions acted in a way that indicates that he feels that he is not bound by the laws governing this country. He routinely ignores congressional requests, feels special privilege that exempts him from executive orders and when face with supreme court decisions finds ways to read around them.

This isn't a problem with the office of the Vice President, this is a problem with the Vice President. Lets treat the cause of the problem not the symptoms.

Sounds like he took a page right out of Bill Bennett's play book, the one that custom officials recently mistook for scat porno from Germany. Ole' DICK might want to turn the rhetoric nozzle dopwn a hair, otherwise he may end up garnering as much respect and GOP authoritative B.O. as Bill. You know about Bill, don't you?

Bill Bennett is used to the skull f-ing monotony. Now fully engaged as captain of a New Zealand commercial chumming boat, he's accustomed to spending months at a time afloat in the Antarctic Ocean, staring at-well, nothing. "Just ice really, lots and lots of ice," said Bennett recently. "Sometimes, not even a seabird or an increasingly growing mass of jetsam and flotsam that threatens South America and other ports o' call." On a particularly calm day in late January, Bennett was tending to a recurring problem with getting his Johnson caught in the various hooks, lures, and fishing lines of his tackle box, each one 2,000 meters long (nearly a mile and a quarter), and sporting up to 10,000 baited hooks, in hopes of a major mud Shark haul, since being ungracellesly dumped by his once loyal party. Suddenly, the calm was shattered-by the sight of a colossal brown squid surfacing and squirting inky fishy smelling splooge, buckets full, near the stern and upon his legendary Cro-Magnon protruding brow. The beast, a 33-foot-long adult male weighing half a ton, had wrapped itself around Bennett's pecker. "It was just this great big brown shape, tha' pecker was, and tha' homer squid wrapped his qwar tentacles 'round it," recalls Bennett, who was watching from the bridge, still pissed about getting nailed for gambling. "It came up right alongside my inseam. Everyone was yelling and screaming - including the ladies." One must take this last statement with a grain of salt, as anyone getting busted for losing extravagent amounts of money playing a pussy gambling device like a slot machine has a tendancy to exagerate in order to attract the ladies. Poor lonely Bill preety much pounds his pud like it owes him money, just like Ralph Reed.

DICK! It's not too late! Don't let this fate happen to you!

I think I jump to calling it theater because it seems like a glib response to a very serious issue.

I by no means am picking on the commentor who originally suggested that 'theatre' is not really stern enough for the situation at hand; I agree in a sense: Cheney should, by rights, be removed from office (Bush too). But it's a mistake to think of political theatre and 'real' politics as separate things. Since when are they discrete? Since never.

There are two kinds of political theatre. Bad: false or ineffective; and good: true and effective. BTW, it's not only Straussians who misinterpret Plato's 'Golden Lie' concept. The theatre doesn't have to be literally true or perfectly proportional, just true in a larger sense. Literalists tend to be mediocre politicians, however good they are at administration or writing laws. Strangely enough, it's political Democrats who lately have tended to be much more literalistic than political Republicans. Does the GOP use way too much bad - false but effective - theatre? Absolutely. In fact it's pretty much all they have. Does that mean that Democrats ought therefore to mistrust political theatre as a concept, so much so that they don't even deign to try to understand it? No no no. That in itself is a literalistic, humorless POV. It's reacting instead of acting. And of course the false-but-effective theatre is as effective as it is because Democrats simply forfeit. Poetry is 'beneath them'. That's why people think we're effete and snobby. Because we are, in a sense. What we really are, more than that, though, is humorless. Voters at large want to be paid attention to, and that means - in our mass culture - a certain amount of what you might call 'theatre'. It can be lying, conning BS theatre, but it can also be artful distillation-theatre.

But this particular case is not gray at all. This is actually brilliant, and kudos to whomever thought of it first, and to RE for taking to it. It's both true and effective as theatre, and also pretty darned 'real': they could actually defund the OVP. Defunding this particular OVP is a really great idea. It's not impeachment, but it's pretty serious, and you aren't precluding impeachment.

As for defunding Cheney, that is ENTIRELY Constitutional and ENTIRELY within the purview of Congress. If they cannot NOT fund him then why give them any say whatsoever in the funding decision? Why should there be any legislation that needs the Congress to vote on it dealing with VP funding/Executive Branch funding? Inherent in power of Congress to fund the President, they have the power NOT to fund the President OR the VP. Otherwise, why not simply replace this with a simple algorithm? If they have no power to defund, then they don't have the power to fund either and they can be replaced with a computer.

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