In between meaningful football games yesterday, I saw clips of Vice President Cheney with Chris Wallace and read some comments on the interview. Frequent readers of my blog understands that I am far from a Bush / Cheney apologist. In fact, I am pretty close to a non-entity in conservative Republican circles because of my early public support for Obama last January. However, in this case, I have to agree with the Vice President (almost) in his opinion that the Congress is equally culpable in both the breach of civil liberties but also the Constitutional idea of checks and balances.
Here is the excerpt from the Cheney / Wallace interview:
“What we did in this administration is to exert that kind of authority. We did it in a manner that I believe and the lawyers that we looked to for advice believed was fully consistent with the Constitution and with the laws of the land. And there’s, I say, ample precedent for it.
If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II, they went far beyond anything we’ve done in the global war on terror.
But we have exercised, I think, the legitimate authority of the president under Article 2 of the Constitution as commander in chief in order to put in place policies and programs that have successfully defended the nation.”
Vice President Cheney is historically and factually correct in his interpretation of the shifting of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in times of national crisis. While the letter of the Constitution has been adhered to by the Bush Administration; it is clear that the spirit of the Constitution has been trampled. However, I do not place fault with the Bush Administration; I place fault squarely on the Congress.
The drafters of the Constitution understood the need for the legislative branch to be the sovereign power in a Republic. As Cheney stated yesterday, Article I establishes the sovereignty of the Congress and purposefully places the Executive Branch under Article II. Here is the payoff: The Executive Branch has only received as much as the Legislative Branch has given to it. Congress appropriates the money; approves treaties and authorizes prolonged military actions; and according to Cheney, gave consent to governmental activities (electronic eavesdropping by the NSA) that are questionable in regards to its citizens.
The Bush / Cheney administration fulfilled the role envisioned by the founders of our Republic; an Executive Branch that can and will try to use sovereign power if the Legislative Branch allows them to take it. In 2006 and in 2008, the American people changed the makeup of the sovereign branch of government by switching the majority from Republicans to Democrats. It will be interesting to see if a Democratic Congress is able and willing to reassert the Constitutionally mandated sovereignty of the Legislative Branch that was designed by John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison over the mantra of “change” offered by the Obama Administration.