Monday, August 31, 2009

His Own World

Following up on the post below, via TPM, Mary Jacoby notes that former Vice President Dick Cheney has an interesting interpretation of the Constitution and the role of the Attorney General.

The former vice president said in an interview on “FOX News Sunday” that President Obama has final authority to make law enforcement decisions. Cheney, whose muscular view of executive power underlay many of the controversies of the Bush administration, referred to Holder as a “political appointee.”

Well, I think if you look at the Constitution, the president of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer in the land. The attorney general’s a statutory officer. He’s a member of the cabinet.

Cheney appears to be taking an expansive view of Article II of the Constitution, which says: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States.” Yet in practice and common understanding, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States is the Attorney General. The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the AG’s office, “which evolved over the years into …. chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government,” the Department of Justice’s Web site says.

It’s very revealing to see the world and our form of government through the eyes of someone like Mr. Cheney. Remember, he was the one who basically said the Office of the Vice President was outside both the executive and the legislative branches of government; a world unto its own, as it were.

Perhaps in the Bush administration the Attorney General was the lapdog of the president — certainly Alberto Gonzales proved to be a boot-licker and a lackey — but the idea that the chief law enforcement officer is a political appointee on the same scale as the ambassador to Freedonia is the view of someone who sees the government and the Constitution as part of his political mechanism, designed solely for the advancement of his own political agenda.

I can only say that it was a very good thing that Dick Cheney never got close enough to the levers of power to actually do anything that could have permanently damaged both the Constitution and the institutions of government that it establishes. Oh, wait….