Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage presents today an excellent analysis of Vice-President Dick Cheney's long-time campaign to extend presidential powers. Looking back to political offices Cheney has held in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and both Bush administrations, Savage studies all manner of media expressions by Cheney on the issue. Well worth reading! Just as an appetizer to get you to the full article,
In July 1987, then-Representative Dick Cheney, the top Republican on the committee investigating the Iran-contra scandal, turned on his hearing room microphone and delivered, in his characteristically measured tone, a revolutionary claim.
President Reagan and his top aides, he asserted, were free to ignore a 1982 law at the center of the scandal. Known as the Boland Amendment, it banned US assistance to anti-Marxist militants in Nicaragua.
"I personally do not believe the Boland Amendment applied to the president, nor to his immediate staff," Cheney said.
Most of Cheney's colleagues did not share his vision of a presidency empowered to bypass US laws governing foreign policy. The committee issued a scathing, bipartisan report accusing White House officials of "disdain for the law."
Cheney refused to sign it. Instead, he commissioned his own report declaring that the real lawbreakers were his fellow lawmakers, because the Constitution "does not permit Congress to pass a law usurping Presidential power.
The Iran-contra scandal was not the first time the future vice president articulated a philosophy of unfettered executive power -- nor would it be the last. The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress."
The article refers to Prof. Peter Shane, from Ohio State's law school, as an academic following these issues. Just as an aid to scholars of this issue, here are a few links for Prof. Shane:
Link for SSRN article on Government Watch Lists
Link to NPR report on the limits on Executive Privilege dated 1/28/06
Link to Election Law@Moritz, a website from Ohio State University.
The photo above is from the Globe article, which they titled "Power Couple" showing President Bush and Dick Cheney looking almost like conjoined twins.