Friday, June 22, 2007

US VP No Longer a Part of the US Government?

An editorial in the San Diego Union--- titled “Is he vice president? Or king?”---quotes the Associated Press:

Cheney's office -- over the objections of the National Archives -- has exempted itself from a presidential executive order that seeks to protect national security information generated by the government, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Under the order, executive branch offices are required to give the Information Security Oversight Office at the archives data on how much material it has classified and declassified.

Cheney's office provided the information in 2001 and 2002, then stopped. Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said Cheney's office claims it need not comply with the executive order because it is not an "entity within the executive branch."

This story is actually getting some play in mainstream news venues in the US, with a focus on Waxman’s revelation that Cheney’s staff tried to have the Information Security Oversight Office abolished altogether. What I’m wondering, though, is whether the vice president considers his office a part of the US Government at all. What other branch of government could it belong to besides the executive branch? Surely not the judicial or congressional branches. And these are the only branches of government set forth in the US Constitution. The title of the San Diego Union’s editorial is facetious, but I’ve got to wonder why Cheney is characterizing himself and his office as no longer a part of the government.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Just a comment of interest - It seems that VP's have always attempted to deal with how much thumb-twaddling their job requires. As early as 1789, VP John Adams bickered that his job placed him in a sort of political limbo between the primary executive, President George Washington, and the legislature. He felt entirely useless, and even though the VP was supposed to be "higher" or more "prestigious" than other governmental positions, he would have gladly "lowered" himself to do something worthwhile.

It seems reasonable to suspect VP's in the 20th and 21st feel the same way. Perhaps even moreso. When I follow presidential elections on the tv, in the newspapers, on the radio, with my friends and coworkers, I get the impression that the VP is only chosen by a party for campaign purposes. They choose the guy who looks the best, speaks most like the President, and basically, the guy that bends over whenever the President asks him to.

I might even feel a little sympathy for Cheney (notice I just said a "little" - you know what, let me rephrase that: "Very Little"). But anyway, in a period in American history where President George W Bush initiated war with Afghanistan and then Iraq under pretenses of "emergency Presidential peace-keeping powers" and later the unprecedented Patriot Act, Cheney's unwillingness to cooperate with the executive branch, as if he is a part of some other "branch," seems out of line, unprecedented, but nonetheless expected.

Maybe the only half-brained answer I can offer to your inquiry is two-fold: 1) No one knows where the VP and his job lies within what we are quick to call a "three-branch" system of government; 2) Maybe Cheney's taking full advantage of what seems to be a crowded bandwagon of politicians experimenting with new means of power, based on broadly interpreted consitutional identities.