Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The pseudo President watch

Dan Froomkin today highlights the newsworthiness of Cheney's "I don't recall" response to Larry King last night on the question of whether he did or did not send Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft's hospital bedside to obtain authorization of the much disputed NSA program. The fact that the Vice President of the United States must hedge and bob and weave on such a question belies one of the secrets of the Bush presidency: that Cheney is actually the one running the show. That Cheney could actually be the one instructing the top aides to the President, not the President.

Marty Lederman emphasizes the point as well:
Larry King: Did you dispatch the White House Chief of Staff and the Counsel to the President to the Attorney General's hospital room to try to get him to sign off on the NSA surveillance program?

Dick Cheney: "I don't recall that I gave instructions to that effect."

* * * *

What's interesting is that Cheney pretended to wrack his brain to recall whether he gave the fateful "instructions." As if that might actually have happened -- as if there would be nothing out of the ordinary if the Vice President had "instructed" the President's two closest advisors to try to squeeze a cabinet official.

Any other Vice President in the history of the Republic would have responded in a way that revealed how absurd the question was (i.e., how absurd it should be), to wit:

"I don't give instructions to those persons. They work for the President, not for me. Indeed, when they do act, they act as agents of the President. I can make recommendations, of course. But that's really beside the point, because ultimately it's the President's call whether to send his two closest advisers to bring pressure to bear on a cabinet official.
Yet in this presidency, it is an entirely plausible scenario playing out behind the scenes in the White House.