The Cheese Stands Alone
By Dana Milbank - The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
We'll make statements only today," President Bush announced to reporters yesterday as he sat with the Estonian president in the Oval Office.
No surprise there. Vice President Cheney's recent declaration that he is not part of the executive branch has prompted hard questions, and nobody in the White House has a good answer for why Cheney -- who hovered near Bush's desk while the president spoke -- had turned himself into a fourth branch of government.
The explanatory task fell to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, whose skin reddened around her neck and collar as she pleaded ignorance during the daily briefing: "I'm not a legal scholar. . . . I'm not opining on his argument that his office is making. . . . I don't know why he made the arguments that he did."
"It's a little surreal," remarked Keith Koffler of Congress Daily.
"You're telling me," Perino agreed.
"You can't give an opinion about whether the vice president is part of the executive branch or not?" Koffler pressed. "It's a little bit like somebody saying, 'I don't know if this is my wife or not.' "
Give the flushed and flustered Perino credit for trying. The vice president had put her in an impossible position. Already under fire for his secretive ways, Cheney has refused to comply with an order governing the care of classified documents; his office concluded that the order does not apply because he is not "an entity within the executive branch."
That's quite opposite the argument Cheney made in 2001, when he said that a congressional probe into the workings of his energy task force "would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch." Cheney has, in effect, declared himself to be neither fish nor fowl but an exotic, extraconstitutional beast who answers to no one.
As if to demonstrate his status as the fourth branch, Cheney left the White House yesterday and made his way to the Capitol, escorted by eight police motorcycles, three police cruisers, two armored limousines, and five SUVs and minivans packed with aides and armed Secret Service agents. Cheney spent all of six minutes on the Senate floor, fulfilling his legislative obligations as president of the Senate.
His task was simple -- swearing in a newly appointed senator, Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming -- and was designed to be foolproof. He had a brief parliamentary script to read, and a laminated card printed with the oath of office. But the executive-branch refugee showed himself to be equally unimpressed with legislative custom. Instead of reading the oath of office and having the new senator merely say "I do" at the end, Cheney ordered Barrasso to "repeat after me."
Barrasso, unprepared to utter the entire oath, got tripped up on the line about "mental reservation or purpose of evasion" -- and asked Cheney to repeat it. The fourth branch of government, his duties thus completed, applauded, left the floor and returned downtown in his motorcade. (See link above to read full article.)
From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion of prisoners in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials. (See link above to read full article.)
Deep beneath the aching ground of our state, writhing,
twisting in the blood soaked layer below the screams
of the tortured and weep-filled living flesh, subdued,
a powerful schemer hunkers down
within his coward’s cave,
cackling of the anguish wrought by his reign
and sneering unto himself and the fool.
Mountains majesty, amber waves of grain
Blown back of the voice of shackles
and ropes tightly bound to their pain…
O! The sand and dust walking over the sorrow-born, lifeless limbs
making chains with the wind around the hopeless, must weep…
Deep below, the schemer whispers, “I’m the king”
from out his sallow lips to messengers sworn to secrecy
while the bombs above fall void unto his ears.
Evoking now the quietude of tyranny’s frame
he brings, blaring, the monstrous memories of what men can do!
And as they each move within the spiritless cave
he bows unto them, knees bent in half worship
uttering “What fools these patriots be.”
And the bombs fall silent unto this horde
of deviant beasts hunkered with themselves
and the stench of wafting hell,
yet only one shadow is cast across the floor…
Deep thundering now rolls, callous and yellow
like unending parades of pride filled processions;
lockstep, closed mind, tight fisted, greedy and senseless;
marching in honor of tomorrow’s bereavement,
inventing a country’s God-spurned eternity
of falling, plummeting rockets red glare
tumbling down, down, down
to the echoes of the past…
O hubris fondling the earth,
filling placid waters and pawing the trees, come!
End this! Thrust thy spear through the breach,
surprise even the memory of monstrous history
that death has found them there…
© 2007 mrp/thepoetryman