Things happened mighty fast. Let me see if I got the timeline straight.
On Sunday or Monday, Dick Cheney's office claimed it was exempt from national security disclosure requirements because as president of the Senate, the vice president of the United States is not a part of the executive branch.
Come Tuesday, House Democrats said, Okay, if you're not part of the executive branch, we'll strip funding for your office. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), sponsor of the legislation, noted that five years ago Cheney claimed executive privilege when asked to reveal details of energy policy meetings Cheney held with his pals in big oil.
In a typical pot and kettle moment, Cheney's office accused the Democrats of playing partisan politics.
Sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning, Cheney's office came out saying, Aw, shoot, yeah, we're part of the executive branch. Never mind what we said earlier.
Then, late Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee slapped the Office of the Vice President with subpoenas for documents relating to President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program. Cheney's people once again squealed "partisan politics" even though the subpoenas were supported by Republicans Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley and Arlen Specter.
My guess is that somewhere in the course of navigating all those rotating knives, Cheney and his folks figured it would be safer to stay under the executive umbrella. For all you hear about Cheney being the most powerful vice president in U.S. history, he really doesn't have jack for statutory privilege. The U.S. Constitution makes him president of the Senate. Period. He's not the number two commander in chief of the military, or anything else. Even his Senate job is pretty much of a joke. He only gets to vote in case of a tie, and that's the only time anybody expects him to show up. That's why the Constitution provides for a president pro-tempore of the Senate to do the actual work of running the legislative body's day-to-day business.
So if he's going to hide sins, he needs to hide them behind Mr. Bush's door. Whether Congress can huff and puff its way past that obstacle remains to be seen.
On Thursday, Mr. Bush's counsel Fred Fielding rejected congressional demands for documents relating to fired federal prosecutors. He also made it clear that former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor will not respond to subpoenas requiring their testimony.
Leahy's Judiciary Committee sent subpoenas seeking documents regarding the NSA to the White House and the Justice Department as well as to Cheney's office.
Dick Cheney has more lives than Freddy Krueger. How many times before this have we thought he was on his last one? Cheney has so many defensive layers of subordinates, claims of privileges, and legal arguments he can probably ride out this subpoena business until the next Republican president pardons him. The guy has committed enough sins to run for Satan and win by a landslide, but don't expect him to ever pay a price for them in this life.
But is it worth harassing him to the maximum extent possible? You bet it is. Dick Cheney is still the high priest of the administration's neoconservative "crazies in the basement." Every moment Dick spends covering his six is a moment he doesn't focus on driving U.S. foreign and domestic policy, and every moment we can keep Cheney's hands off of U.S. policy is a good moment for America.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.