Bernard Weiner: The Veep claims he's got immunity from any lawsuit--whaaaat?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( To comment:]

In foreign policy, the CheneyBush Administration is criticized widely abroad for acting like an arrogant bully, threatening and often meting out rough treatment to get what it wants. Its violent behavior in Iraq is a good case in point, leading to tens of thousands of U.S. dead and wounded and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed.

But it's not just in foreign matters that such outrageous, in-your-face behavior obtains. And the best example of this can be found in two separate, but interrelated, cases that came into view this past week.

The one with the most political and constitutional significance involves Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby -- and by extension the POTUS Himself -- asserting for the first time in public, through their attorneys, that they are immune from prosecution because they are above the law.

Libby recently was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame criminal case. He and Cheney and Rove are being civilly sued by Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame for their having outed her as a covert CIA agent and thus endangering her (and her contacts) and ruining her career. The response by the defense legal team to the judge hearing the case, as reported by the Washington Post:

"The lawyers said any conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate 'policy dispute.' Cheney's attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wanted to make sure he heard them claim what he thought he heard them claim, so he explicitly inquired: "So you're arguing there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment," whether the statements were true or false?

That's true, Your Honor...," said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division.

Richard Nixon had asserted much the same claim of absolute authority about his actions in the Watergate scandal, that when the President does something, it's ipso facto not illegal, and can't be illegal, since he's the President.  The U.S. Supreme Court at that time made clear that nobody, not the President and not his associates and aides, are outside the reach of the law. In addition, a conservative-led federal appeals court years later ruled that President Bill Clinton could be civilly sued by Paula Jones while he was in office.

But in 2007, there's a new, more "conservative" Supreme Court, which may explain why the CheneyBushRove forces are pushing the issue of absolute presidential authority to the point of a Constitutional Crisis. They figure with Roberts and Alito on the court, they should be able to get a 5-4 decision granting the "commander-in-chief" carte blanche in "wartime."

What war, you ask? Why the Bush-proclaimed permanent "Global War on Terror," that's what war. Since that war is one being waged against a tactic, it'll never end and Bush is thus free to do whatever he wishes to do for the duration of his term.

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Randll Reese Besch - 5/26/2007

When the traitor becomes the patriot and the democratic-republic becomes a dictatorship {of any stripe}. The 'rule of law' becomes a Kafkaesque nightmare and sick parody.We are living in such transient times.Germans who lived through such a transformation in the 1930's see a grim similarity now.What will you do when the hammer falls?

Wil Lofland - 5/26/2007

When God chooses you to be president you can make the rules up as you go.
The lack of Supreme Court intervention on all the Constitutional violations shows how powerful.
The BBRW does exist and soon we will have a dictatorship. The failure of the Democratic Legislature proves this, they are nothing more than pawns.
The heir apparent has already been selected, John McCain. He will easily defeat a do nothing Democratic Party.
When this takes place the Constitution will finally die. It is dying already as the result of one man.
The people have sat apatheticly by watching the "truth" be told to them on their plasma TV's, if not they are enjoying reality TV. This shows the IQ of the American population today.
I am glad I am An expatritate and will leave this country forever and never look back as so many informed Americans are doing.
The author of this would gladly appreciate any comments.