Ex-VP Mondale accuses Cheney of power grab

AFP
Monday July 30, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney has presided over an unprecedented power grab during his six years in the White House, former Vice President Walter Mondale wrote in a rare, scathing critique Sunday.

"The real question is why the president allows this to happen," Mondale writes.

Mondale, the former number two to Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, in an opinion piece appearing Sunday in the Washington Post newspaper, fingered Cheney as the chief transgressor in a White House guilty of "great excess" and "exceeding its authority."

He wrote that since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, "Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president."

"His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president," he wrote, calling the George W. Bush administration "seriously off track" in the unprecedented amount of power it has ceded to Cheney.

"Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he (Cheney) has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president -- because he has been able to determine the questions," Mondale continued.

In particular, many of the policy positions Cheney has pushed through on handling terror suspects and the domestic use of intelligence "have proved offensive to the values of the constitution and have been embarrassingly overturned by the courts."

Mondale also slammed "Cheney's zealous embrace of secrecy" and his "near total aversion to the notion of accountability" to the public and Congress.

"I've never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress and contempt for the will of Congress," wrote Mondale in The Post.

"It's almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government," he added.

Excerpts from Mondale's op-ed:

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The Post's recent series on Dick Cheney's vice presidency certainly got my attention. Having held that office myself over a quarter-century ago, I have more than a passing interest in its evolution from the backwater of American politics to the second most powerful position in our government. Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive -- until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.

....

This all changed in 2001, and especially after Sept. 11, when Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president. His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president. It is essential that a president know all the relevant facts and viable options before making decisions, yet Cheney has discarded the "honest broker" role he played as President Gerald Ford's chief of staff.

Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president -- because he has been able to determine the questions. It was Cheney who persuaded President Bush to sign an order that denied access to any court by foreign terrorism suspects and Cheney who determined that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

....

Whatever authority a vice president has is derived from the president under whom he serves. There are no powers inherent in the office; they must be delegated by the president. Somehow, not only has Cheney been given vast authority by President Bush -- including, apparently, the entire intelligence portfolio -- but he also pursues his own agenda. The real question is why the president allows this to happen.

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FULL WASHINGTON POST COLUMN CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK

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