Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

  Welcome to America, Washington

On Sunday I argued that Cheney's Scarlet Pimpernel theory of the vice presidency had done more profound and lasting damage to his political standing in the salons of DC than perhaps any other scandal of his these last six years. The evidence just keeps rolling in that by making himself a laughingstock at the center of power, Cheney pulled back the curtain on his own childish delusions.

The American public has been deeply dissatisfied with Cheney since 2003. But somehow, the "wise men" of Washington have continued to pretend to themselves that deep down the man is a serious, if flawed, public servant. Until now that is. Cheney has shown himself to be such a horses' ass that almost nobody except William Kristol is springing to his defense.

Yesterday, the White House press corps grilled WH spokesperson Dana Perino about Cheney's ludicrous claim that the vice president's office is not "an entity within the Executive Branch". While they were at it, the journalists also became unusually and refreshingly confrontational about the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and much else. Perino became red in the face trying to make excuses and put off questions about Cheney's behavior:

Q Dana, for 200-plus years, everybody from civics class on up has had a certain understanding of the way our government works. And this EO [requiring agencies of the executive branch to submit their classified records to oversight of the National Archives] clarifies more than 200 years of constitutional scholarship about the way our system works?

MS. PERINO: Maybe it's me, but I think that everyone is making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be. The President writes an executive order; he says --

Q I'm talking about the part where the Vice President says that there's a question about whether or not he's part of the executive branch.

MS. PERINO: And the point I was trying to make to you before is that I --

Q This really falls into "sky is blue" stuff.

MS. PERINO: For the past two centuries the Senate has provided payment to the Vice President for his duties as a member of the government. I understand that he has roles in both branches. I am -- I don't think that it's as clear-cut as you're trying to make it.

Q That the Vice President of the United States is --

MS. PERINO: I think there is no denying that he has functions in both the legislative and the executive branches. That is a fact.

Q But it seems like the Vice President is saying he's not responsible for the rules of either of those --

Q Yes.

MS. PERINO: No, I think that he was saying -- especially when it comes to the executive branch -- is that the duties that he is given are given to him solely by the President of the United States. And some Vice Presidents don't do as much as he does in the realm of national security or in policy development as this Vice President does. But this Vice President was given executive duties to handle –

Q But how is being a part of another branch -- I guess it's debatable -- but how is that an out?

MS. PERINO: It's not an -- that's irrelevant because the President never intended for the Vice President to be subject to the executive order.

Q No, he introduced the topic. The Office of the Vice President introduces that into the argument, into the debate; "well, we're not part of the executive branch."

MS. PERINO: I think that that is also a fact -- and as I said to Kelly, I'll see if I can get more from the Vice President's office to see if they -- how they connected the two, or if they did.

Q He can argue he's part of both, but he can't possibly argue that he's part of neither. And it seems like he's saying he's part of neither.

MS. PERINO: Okay, you have me thoroughly confused, as well.

You know that Cheney is twisting in the wind when even Dana Milbank piles on him.

Cheney has, in effect, declared himself to be neither fish nor fowl but an exotic, extraconstitutional beast who answers to no one.

This is the sort of thing that bloggers have been arguing for years now. Suddenly, it has become acceptable for Washington insiders to say the obvious about the man's self-delusions. As I remarked on Sunday, Cheney promulgated the Scarlet Pimpernel theory of the vice presidency in 2003; it has been widely discussed on line for a very long time, and even reported in 2006 by Mark Silva for the Chicago Tribune. So the fact that, after lying dormant for years, the Pimpernel scandal suddenly matters a lot to the DC establishment is itself a major part of the story.

Even Walter Mitty would now be embarrassed to defend Cheney.

The salons of DC have most definitely turned on the Vice President, at long last. Today in the Washington Post a consummate insider, Sally Quinn (wife of the Post's Vice President, Ben Bradlee), writes favorably of a "GOP plan to oust Cheney". In fact, she compares the alleged maneuvering with nostalgia to the (wrenching) decision by her family friend, Barry Goldwater, to tell Richard Nixon in 1974 that he needed to resign for the good of the country.

Whether such a "plan" to oust Cheney actually exists outside of some murmings in the DC salons is hard to gauge. It's even less likely to go anywhere for a variety of reasons, not least that Cheney has a death-grip on power. Many, many commentators have opined over the years that Cheney was on the verge of being pushed out. None have had credible sources for such extreme speculation.

The crucial thing, however, is that the Post is publishing such a commentary at all. It demonstrates that Cheney's veneer of respectability has fallen away completely. He's now and perhaps forever more a laughingstock in the nation's capital.

Welcome to America, Washington.

crossposted from Unbossed

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