Monday, July 30, 2007

Vice President Cheney is CONTEMPTUOUS of Congress; of American voters, and of the Constitutional form of American government. By former VP Mondale...

WELL! Finally we have a BRIGHT SIDE to the horrible, anemic, appalling presidential campaign of (former Vice President) Al Gore and his running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, in 2000. In that campaign, (then) Vice President Gore had to take on an insurgent campaign for the Democratic nomination from former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. Bradley might have been an all-American sports hero as a basketball star in both college and the NBA, but after Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to retake Congress in 1994 (mosly by villifying Democrats as "tax and spend librul Democrats," even though "liberal programs" are what set the Depression- and pre-Depression era America apart from the WWII winning superpower that President Roosevelt's New Deal ushered in), Bradley LEFT THE FIGHT, giving up an almost guaranteed re-election to drop out of the senate in the 1996 race, thereby adding another Senate seat to the Republican gains of those years.

Unfortunately, Bradley take-no-prisoners insurgent campaign from the "left" side of the Democratic agenda forced Gore to tack "right" to woo more "mainstream" voters, as eight long years of Clinton bashing by Republicans had made many Americans feel as if Democrats in general (and the civil rights/"free love" era of the 1960s in particular) were the root of all social wrongs in America, the so-called "Moral Values" agenda.

During this era (the eight long years of Clinton-hating from the radical right) the New York Times, Washington Post, and other media "leaders" joined in the Clinton bashing for fun an profit (culminating in the absurd notion that the Clintons had no right to invite guests to spend the night at the White House, the so-called "LINCOLN BEDROOM SCANDAL!"), blaring headlines and bold-type accusations guaranteed to pique the curiousity of news readers. Along the way the media executives also signed on the Radical Right agenda of TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY, and other pro-business policies, mainly reduction in regulations and oversight for businesses in general, and a green-light for MEDIA CONSOLIATION in particular.

Enter, in 2000, Halliburton CEO and Chairman DICK CHENEY. The MYTH was that, as CEO and Chairman of a successful company, Dick Cheney was a good business leader. Actually, Cheney's leadership of Halliburton Co. was almost as DISASTER for that company, Cheney having arranged the buyout of DRESSER INDUSTRIES by Halliburton, a move that put Dresser's billions of dollars worth of potential ASBESTOS LIABILITIES right on the table of Halliburton's boardroom and investors! As a radical-right die-hard, Cheney felt certain he could get Congress to mitigate - throw out - all the employee lawsuits against Dresser for years worth of hazardous asbestos exposure, which had killed dozens of workers and given cancer to hundreds more. Somehow Cheney finessed the Dresser disaster, mostly by using his contacts deep in the US government (he had been Secretary of Defense under Bush Sr.) and Republican congress to reward Halliburton with multi-million dollar huge government contracts. (Ironically, as Secretary of Defense, Cheney had been THE most ardent supporter of radical defense CUTS as the Soviet Union dismantled itself and ended the Cold War. Cheney's "NO SOFT LETDOWN" budget-slashing ruthlessness, to areas of the nation's economy that had been dependent on defense contracts for 5 decades (such as the northeast corridor around Boston, and the huge Lockheed and Boeing plants on the west coast), were devastating, and helped transform the "PEACE DIVIDEND" and euphoria over the demise of the Soviet Union, into the Bush1 recession of the early 1990s. (Besides slashing defense spending with "no soft letdown" which decimated the US economy, the other major cause of the Bush1 Recession was the TRILLION DOLLAR S&L debacle, taxpayers being forced to pay off $500 billion in S&L bad loans, which, with interest still compounding a decade later, led to a trillion dollars of taxpayer moneyies going to the S&L debacle..)

Besides ruthlessly SLASHING "his own" defense industries in the early 1990s (most of those defense/military contractor companies tending towards the conservative side of the aisle), besides being an industry CEO who worked to TOSS OUT thousands of asbestos (cancer) lawsuits, there was one other side of Dick Cheney which the public tended not to notice, BECAUSE DEMOCRATS RAN SUCH ANEMIC "opposition research" efforts: Dick Cheney had been DEALING WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN as Chairman of Halliburton, and, indeed, in the late 1990's Cheney had used EUROPEAN SUBSIDIARIES to funnel millions of dollars of contracts to Saddam's Iraq - WHILE THE UNITED STATES WAS LEADING AN ECONOMIC EMBARGO of Iraq!


This, clearly, is a story the Washington Post SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN _BEFORE_ the presidential election of 2000, NOT after that election! That Halliburton Chairman and CEO DICK CHENEY could be SUPPLYING IRAQ in DEFIANCE of a US-enforced UN embargo, an action that CLEARLY RAN COUNTER to public opinion in America at the time, would be a preview to the newly installed vice president's SCORN FOR BOTH American publica opinion, and the Congress.

The "good news" is that, in Vice President Dick Cheney and in President George W. Bush, we Americans have an almost perfect expression of the true radical right agenda: a deep, pathological SCORN and CONTEMPT for American voters, the American Congress, and even American democracy itself. The only question is, "Will Americans fight to retake their democracy, or will the 'DARK SIDE' of Mr. Cheney's contempt for congress, scorn for public opinion, and dismissal of 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind' prevail?"


Answering to No One -
[i.e. Vice President Cheney is contemptuous of Congress, Scorns any oversight and American voters]
By Walter F. Mondale
Sunday, July 29, 2007; B07

The Post's recent series on Dick Cheney's vice presidency certainly got my attention. Having held that office myself over a quarter-century ago, I have more than a passing interest in its evolution from the backwater of American politics to the second most powerful position in our government. Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive -- until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.

The Founders created the vice presidency as a constitutional afterthought, solely to provide a president-in-reserve should the need arise. The only duty they specified was that the vice president should preside over the Senate. The office languished in obscurity and irrelevance for more than 150 years until Richard Nixon saw it as a platform from which to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1960. That worked, and the office has been an effective launching pad for aspiring candidates since.

But it wasn't until Jimmy Carter assumed the presidency that the vice presidency took on a substantive role. Carter saw the office as an underused asset and set out to make the most of it. He gave me an office in the West Wing, unimpeded access to him and to the flow of information, and specific assignments at home and abroad. He asked me, as the only other nationally elected official, to be his adviser and partner on a range of issues.

Our relationship depended on trust, mutual respect and an acknowledgement that there was only one agenda to be served -- the president's. Every Monday the two of us met privately for lunch; we could, and did, talk candidly about virtually anything. By the end of four years we had completed the "executivization" of the vice presidency, ending two centuries of confusion, derision and irrelevance surrounding the office.

Subsequent administrations followed this pattern. George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Al Gore built their vice presidencies after this model, allowing for their different interests, experiences and capabilities as well as the needs of the presidents they served.

This all changed in 2001, and especially after Sept. 11, when Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president. His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president. It is essential that a president know all the relevant facts and viable options before making decisions, yet Cheney has discarded the "honest broker" role he played as President Gerald Ford's chief of staff.

Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president -- because he has been able to determine the questions. It was Cheney who persuaded President Bush to sign an order that denied access to any court by foreign terrorism suspects and Cheney who determined that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rather than subject his views to an established (and rational) vetting process, his practice has been to trust only his immediate staff before taking ideas directly to the president. Many of the ideas that Bush has subsequently bought into have proved offensive to the values of the Constitution and have been embarrassingly overturned by the courts.

The corollary to Cheney's zealous embrace of secrecy is his near total aversion to the notion of accountability. I've never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress -- even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying -- it's almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.

Whatever authority a vice president has is derived from the president under whom he serves. There are no powers inherent in the office; they must be delegated by the president. Somehow, not only has Cheney been given vast authority by President Bush -- including, apparently, the entire intelligence portfolio -- but he also pursues his own agenda. The real question is why the president allows this to happen.

Three decades ago we lived through another painful example of a White House exceeding its authority, lying to the American people, breaking the law and shrouding everything it did in secrecy. Watergate wrenched the country, and our constitutional system, like nothing before. We spent years trying to identify and absorb the lessons of this great excess. But here we are again.

Since the Carter administration left office, we have been criticized for many things. Yet I remain enormously proud of what we did in those four years, especially that we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace.

The writer was vice president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.