I'm very glad to see Sean Wilentz writing in today'sNY Times about Cheney's minority report in the Iran Contra investigations. (I wrote about this too, last week.)
The Iran-contra joint committee majority in 1987, including some Senate Republican members, charged that the minority report, with tortuous illogic, reduced Congress’s foreign policy role to nearly nothing. Senator Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican and vice chairman of the Senate side of the investigating committee, paraphrased Adlai Stevenson and quipped that the minority report had separated the wheat from the chaff and left in the chaff.
His comments did not lead Mr. Cheney to alter course, as Mr. Cheney’s actions as vice president demonstrate. Asked by a reporter in 2005 to explain his expansive views about presidential power, Mr. Cheney replied, “If you want reference to an obscure text, go look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-contra committee.”
“Nobody has ever read them,” he said, but they “are very good in laying out a robust view of the president’s prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters.”
In truth, as Mr. Cheney has also remarked, the struggle for him began much earlier, during the Nixon administration. A business partner says that Mr. Cheney told him that Watergate was merely “a political ploy by the president’s enemies.” [Interesting that he holds exactly the same view in exactly the same words as his hero Tricky Dick -- ed] For Mr. Cheney, the scandal was not Richard Nixon’s design for an imperial presidency but the Democrats’ drive for an imperial Congress.
Still, Mr. Cheney’s quest to accumulate unaccountable executive power — a quest that has received much attention of late — took a major turn 20 years ago. And part of Iran-contra’s legacy has now become a legacy of the Bush-Cheney administration.
It's actually a straight line from the Watergate pardon to Iran-Contra (and its pardons) to impeachment to the stolen election of 2000 to the unitary executive abuses of the Bush presidency and the Iraq war. It doesn't really have anything to do with Dick Cheney's alleged theory of executive power, since he employs it only when he's defending a lawless Republican administration. (I don't exactly recall old Dick standing up and complaining loudly about the imperial congress spending eight years harassing the executive when the executive was a Democrat, do you?)
Cheney and his boys escalate whenever and wherever they have institutional control. He doesn't actually believe in a powerful executive. He believes in a powerful Republican Party and so do all of his lock-step brethren --- by any means necessary.
Here's the latest on the Cheney impeachment train. Brave New Films made this great short, which was #1 on YouTube this week-end: