Very interesting article in the Washington Post, Answering to No One, by Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter’s VP). He gives a history of the role of the vice president, and then comes to Dick Cheney. His words affirm what I’ve felt for a long time.
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….1 Comment
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….
I’ve never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress — even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying – it’s almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.
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.