Who is in charge?
This will be a hot topic for quite some time. In the wake of the Washington Post series on Cheney (yet to be completed), here are some observations:
Time and again we see the Vice President making decisions, attending meetings, and handling situations that really should be handled by the President personally. We also see the Vice President continually limiting or otherwise manipulating the information and advice that reaches the President's ear. We see him secretly intercepting memos intended for other cabinet officials, keeping key officials out of the loop on important decisions, and using other officials to disguise the provenance of advice originating from his office.Balkinization: (emp orig)
the Vice President ... consistently prevails in the internal debates. He wins virtually every battle ...
... Cheney wins internal battles because the President constantly sides with Cheney over all his other trusted advisers.
This week's contretemps is a good example. The Addington theory that the Vice President is not covered by the Executive Order regulating the way in which every "entity within the executive branch" must handle classified national security information is patently frivolous. .... The Archives asked DOJ to say so -- to resolve the dispute, something that should have taken OLC all of 15 minutes or so because the question is so easy. And yet if reports are correct, DOJ has not even begun the process ... Why?
The answer appears to be that the President has made it known that in such disputes, he will almost invariably side with Cheney, notwithstanding that Cheney's judgments have been so extreme, so idiosyncratic, and have so often proved disastrous. Therefore resistance from others in the Administration is futile, no matter how much they chafe under Addington's direction.
And so the $64,000 Question is: Why has this President, unlike every other, so uncritically deferred to the Vice President, even where the rest of his Administration is begging him not to do so?
I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the uncompromising nature of the Cheney and Addington worldview appeals to the Manichean side of Bush that emerged in full force post-9/11.
Maybe. But we have yet to read about Cheney's influence on the budget process - something the Post will publish later this week. Domestic policy has no Manichean aspect about it but I'm guessing Cheney will be revealed to have gotten his way in this arena as well. If I'm correct, a different kind of explanation may be needed for Bush's behavior. Perhaps a cocktail of too-lazy-to-work, dry drunk, and deluded-by-faith.
I remember when Bush was looking for a VP. Cheney had the job to do that -- find a VP. We ended up with Cheney. What a surprise.