Home / General / Cheney and the Rule of Law

Cheney and the Rule of Law


Lithwick reads Cheney so you don’t have to.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • TT

    If only Cheney had tweeted pictures of his junk. Then would he be a true pariah.

    • Malaclypse

      Or if someone had given him a blowjob. Then we could have done something.

    • Joe

      These cute potshots are curious to me. What’s the point here? Wiener was a major jerk who did things that made his resignation appropriate. He is seen as a jerk. Cheney is seen as Darth Vader. If Weiner wanted go around to talk shows, I’m sure they would take him. Not that it would be as newsworthy as a vice president who was a major player in a criminal conspiracy.

      • Malaclypse

        What’s the point here?

        That the only action worthy of political approbation is sexual sin, and then normally only if committed by a Democrat. For a Republican to admit sexual misbehavior, only homosexuality is off limits.

      • Uncle Kvetch

        Wiener was a major jerk who did things that made his resignation appropriate. He is seen as a jerk. Cheney is seen as Darth Vader.

        You just answered your own question. Wiener was forced to resign, while Cheney served out his term in office with zero repercussions.

        And do you honestly think “being seen as Darth Vader” constitutes some kind of punishment for Cheney? He revels in that image, and so do the morally stunted sociopaths who will show up at his book signings and tell him he’s a great American.

        • Joe

          Weiner had no real power. Clinton wasn’t forced from office either. He had real power.

          • Uncle Kvetch

            Weiner had no real power.

            Then why did anyone give a shit? “Powerless man engages in skeevy behavior — we’ll have all the details at 11.”

            The late nite jokes reflect his what the culture thinks of him.

            Yeah, I’m sure Cheney cries himself to sleep every time Letterman makes a Darth Vader joke about him. Oh, the humanity (or, in this case, absence thereof).

            Wiener was widely tipped to be a strong candidate in the next NYC mayoral election. He may still be viable, but he’s got a long crossing of the desert ahead of him first, and even then it’s a long shot.

            Cheney, on the other hand, can look forward to a pleasant retirement of golf rounds with CEOs, softball interviews on national TV, and 50K-a-pop speaking engagements to adoring crowds of his fellow sociopaths.

            Yeah, I’d say there’s something seriously fucked up in that equation, considering we’re talking about just another skeevy, narcissistic pol on the one hand, and a war criminal on the other.

      • TT

        The “point” of these “cute potshots” is that the political and media establishments in this country accord no social opprobrium whatsoever–much less legal penalty–to a man who openly and proudly admits to committing crimes for which he would have been jailed or even hanged post-WWII.

        Of the many awful things conservatives have done to our body politic over the past generation, one of the worst has to be introducing the exquisitely grotesque phrase “criminizaling political differences” into the national bloodstream. In the aftermath of Watergate, the GOP essentially told itself, “Never again”, meaning never again would it allow credible accusations of criminality to undermine its hold on or drive for political power. Such an attitude enabled it to not only withstand Iran-contra but emerge relatively unscathed, politcally, morally, and legally speaking. After all, prosecuting men who were illegally selling arms to one country in order to illegally finance a war in another amounted to mere “political differences”, akin to disagreements over tax policy or whether health insurance should be sold across state lines. Nothing more.

        Cheney’s behavior is a natural, linear outgrowth of this cancer. The more he appears in public reveling in his “Dark Side” image, sitting for Serious and gentle interviews with the Serious and deferential establishment press, the more normal he becomes, and the less chance there is of justice ever seeing the light of day. Chris Hayes made this point forcefully and articulately last week. That is not to say that Weiner–who committed no crime beyond knuckleheadedness–wouldn’t be able to get on TV (he’d have been a notable “get”; that’s how TV news works), but under no circumstances would he be treated with anything approaching the kid gloves Cheney receives.

        • Joe

          “no social opprobrium whatsoever”

          This is false. You can see the distaste of some of the people in the media who question him. The late nite jokes reflect his what the culture thinks of him. By the end, even Bush didn’t take Cheney too seriously. Weiner would get gigs if he wanted them.

          The idea that Weiner was just a “knucklehead” is a tad distasteful. Sending pictures to young women unwanted and lying about it (so even leading liberal voices looked stupid for defending him) is just “knucklehead” behavior now.

          • dangermouse

            Thanks for that aside explaining how distasteful it is to call Anthony Weiner a knucklehead instead of a jerk, in your post arguing that jokes by late-night comedians are adequate punishment for Dick Cheney’s support for torture.

          • DrDick

            There is also the matter of the nature of the transgressions. Weiner, whose behavior was inappropriate, sent unsolicited pictures of his junk to women with whom he had no direct personal contact. Dick Cheney authorized and endorsed universally acknowledged “crimes against humanity” resulting in the death and mutilation of untold numers. The fact that you see these as in any way comparable says a great deal about your own warped values.

            • Holden Pattern

              Indeed. According to prevailing morality, Weiner’s actions were FAR FAR WORSE!

              So even equating the two shows that one is a moral deviant with no sense of decorum or decency.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          In fact, as a Congressman, Cheney and his staff helped write the GOP’s minority report on the Iran-Contra hearings. He’s been instrumental in this chain of events for a long, long time (possible back to his role in the Ford White House).

          • +1.

            Not enough people realize this; Cheney has been fighting this battle for 40 years.

        • joel hanes

          In the aftermath of the Conmey/Ashcroft wiretap kerfuffle, George W. Bush admitted on national television that he had directed wiretaps of American citizens without warrant, that the program had continued despite lack of “reauthorization”, and stated his firm intention to continue with such wiretaps.

          To my knowledge, this was the first time that a sitting American President had publicly stated that he had committed and would continue to commit felonies while in office.

          Also, don’t forget that Karl Rove and Harriet Meiers felt empowered to ignore Congressional subpoenas, and suffered no consequences.

          Unpunished, Cheney, Bush, Rove, and Addington do harm merely by their existence.

  • firefall

    as always with Slate, not even worth the effort to click through to, let alone read. If that’s a book review, I’m Queen of the May

    • c u n d gulag

      Respectfully, Lithwick isn’t a book reviewer.

      She writes columns about laws and jurisprudence. And is damn good at it.

      Here, as she summarizes at the end, she’s writing about America still being land of men, rather than what it ought to be – a nation of laws.

      And that letting Cheney, who sites things like torture, and unprovoked wars, as “legal,” without punishment, means that we are still a nation of men and NOT laws.

      What he and Little Boots did were completely illegal.
      But in one respect, they were smart – they had sycophants like John Yoo give them cover from a legal perspective, because torture was held in much the same disapproval (for lack of a better word right now) as homicide. ‘So sure,’ they could say, ‘we may have acted like deranged sociopaths – BUT IT WAS PERFECTLY LEGAL! See, I have the paperwork right here.’

    • Murc

      Um, wha?

      It’s not a book review. It’s a column about Cheney, written because he has a new book out and that means he’s relevant again. Not that once again pointing out that Cheney is a war criminal is something that should need an excuse. It ought to be part of his name. Whenever anyone introduced him it should be ‘Former Vice-President and war criminal Dick Cheney.’

  • c u n d gulag

    Cheney is a War Criminal, and should be tried at the Hague, along with W – holding his (nominal) bosses hand, if needed.
    He is without a doubt one of the most malevolent and malignant characters to ever perform on our national political stage.
    He makes Iago look like Tinkerbell.

    And I’m waiting for his evil spawn Liz to decide to follow in Daddy’s footsteps, and get into national politics.
    We’ll need to watch her carefully:
    The stool doesn’t fall too far from the sphincter.

    • There are a many political figures I do not like, but Cheney really rises above. He’s a cartoonish villain.

      • c u n d gulag

        Yeah, until Cheney, I thought Nixon was the worst.

        But the more recent Dick made that Dick look like a piker.

        • I mean, his record reads like someone you’d make up.

          Before he even got to the executive branch, Dick Cheney voted against releasing Nelson Mandela.


          What is wrong with someone like that?

          • Bill Murray

            he might threaten the profits of companies Cheney or his buddies had a stake in

          • John

            Nelson Mandela was pretty controversial among Republicans in the 80s. They thought he was a Communist, or something.

      • NonyNony

        The man even LOOKS like Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. Somehow. Despite the fact that he actually does not physically resemble Burgess Meredith at all. He somehow has the mannerisms of a supervillain.

        I actually find him fascinating. He’s the kind of villain you could write into a work of fiction and your agent/editor would send it back to you and say “this guy Cheney – he’s just too unrealistic. NOBODY is like that in real life.”

        • c u n d gulag

          Especially if you told your editor that this villain was VP to a Howdy-Doody/Alfred E. Newman looking simpleton, whose only qualification for the office was that his Daddy was President 8 years before – and not that that was really any qualification at all, at least not unless you treated the Presidency like a legacy position at a college or university.

          Fact is often stranger than fiction.

          It’s just that you just can’t write fiction like that, because you’ll be told no one will ever believe it.

          • “He shoots his friend in the face and makes him apologize? Don’t you think that’s a little over-the-top?”

            • rm

              This “fourth branch of government” legal subplot is just stretching credibility too far.

            • Malaclypse

              Look, nobody will believe the villain has no pulse. Really, this is simply a bad caricature of comic-book supervillainy at this point.

              • Needs more handlebar mustache.

              • “But sir, the subject is cooperating!”

                “You heard me. I want him water boarded.”

                Look, you’ve definitely got some technical skill and you can spin a yarn, but nobody is going to believe in this “Dick” character.

          • Holden Pattern

            Really, the last decade is one long barbaric yawp of “I could not make this shit up if I tried.”

        • Kurzleg

          That’s what I was getting at with my comment up thread. He’s over the top, which makes me wonder what’s behind it.

      • David Hunt

        He’s a cartoonish villain.

        Yep. To steal/adapt a comment from John Rogers, whenever Cheney says…well, just about anything, I reflect that it should be said from the control room of a giant rampaging robot. It’s the only context in which it makes sense.

  • JohnR

    With Cheney, it’s easy – he took the Nixon approach to the definition of “legal” and just expanded it. The Cheney doctrine is: “When a Republican does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
    The entire GOP (not surprisingly) has completely accepted this as Constitutional gospel. They’ve also leaped to the obvious corrollary: “When a Democrat does it, that means that it is illegal.” Naturally, the press has also accepted that reasoning at face value, although of course there can be exceptions (as long as they involve sex, anyway).
    Oh, and Firefall: congratulations on your promotion! I’m sure it’s well-deserved.

  • Uncle Kvetch

    Most of agree that we should not be a nation of torturers, and that torture has tarnished the reputation of the United States as a beacon of justice. Most of us do not want warrantless surveillance, secret prisons, or war against every dictator who looks at us funny. We may be bloodthirsty, but we aren’t morons.

    I wish I could agree with her about this.

    • Malaclypse

      Yep. I’m pretty sure that most of us want to see “bad guys” tortured, because we know believe we will never be among the tortured, and once they have been tortured, then we know they must have deserved it, because AMERICA FUCK YEA!

      As a nation, we have internalized the doctrine that it is better to be feared than loved. We apply the Ledeen Doctrine to individuals, as well as countries.

  • Kurzleg

    With Cheney, it’s never been clear to me what animates his particular brand of mendacity. Does he really think that all these penny-ante “threats” to America he sees are undermined by the Constitution and the separation of powers? But setting aside the dubious “threats” that Cheney sees everywhere, I’d really like to know what he thinks he’s saving when he pursues policies that abridge the very freedoms he thinks he’s protecting.

    • Tyto

      He’s saving the Presidency, not the country. Remember, his stated reaction to watching Nixon’s final embarkation onto Air Force was that the Presidency had simply become too weak.

      • Tyto

        That’s “Air Force One.”

        • rea

          And it ought to be Marine One, not Air Force One–Nixon left by helicopter, not jet.

          • Tyto

            d’oh! Thanks for that.

          • Curiously, he flew to Andrews where he indeed boarded a jet to San Clemente

            On Air Force One (which because Nixon was no longer President was named Spirit of ’76)

            • Murc

              Isn’t taking Marine One to Andrews to baord Air Force One actually pretty common?

            • Should have been “Spirit of ’74.”

              • Bill Murray

                yeah Spirit of 76 was a fine song by The Alarm and I’d hate to have that sullied by Nixon

      • Kurzleg

        In other words, he’d be perfectly happy with a royalty of sorts. Well, I don’t remember Cheney ever saying anything about loving freedom, so that makes sense.

  • DocAmazing

    Sure do wish Eric Holder would read Lithwick’s column.

    • rm

      I wish Eric Holder were more like Janet Reno (cue trolls reciting 15-year-old smears) and would consider his office to be independent of the President, more directly responsible to the Constitution and the law. I wish he would ignore Obama and do what is necessary regardless of the drama.

      • I wish Eric Holder were more like Janet Reno (cue trolls reciting 15-year-old smears)

        They both like women?

        Sorry….couldn’t resist.

        • Malaclypse

          They are also both warm-blooded primates, but I assume rm was referring to similarities in job performance, rather than irrelevant characteristics that would normally only be remarked upon by mouthbreathers at Red State.

        • rea

          It’s not jurt that they both like women–it’s that they’re both coming for our guns! Ruby Ridge! (Janet Reno in a time machine was totaly responsible for that!)

  • Lithwick: We may be bloodthirsty, but we aren’t morons.

    Ha ha ha! Go tell that to the god-bothering twat leading the GOP presidential nomination race — or his supporters.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      Ha ha ha! Go tell that to the god-bothering twat leading the GOP presidential nomination race — or his supporters.

      Or for that matter, tell it to “Anonymous,” our new household pest upthread.

      Just imagine what the Republican candidate debates are going to look like. Being willing to crush a hypothetical child’s testicles in a vise is so last decade. “I would personally strafe a packed elementary school auditorium with machine-gun fire if that’s what it takes to win the War on Terror. What you got, Romney?”

      • I just wish there was a debate moderator who would actually ask that question instead of the softball questions they’re more likely to get…

        • joel hanes

          Return control of the debates to the League of Women Voters (who did a superb job for decades) and you will once again see such a debate moderator.

          • +1.

            Can I just say that Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown need to be put in cryogenic sleep until “Idiocracy” comes to pass, so they can function as average members of society?

            I remember one of the Democratic primary debates in which Brown led off with the question, “Senator Clinton, what do you think about Senator Obama said about you?” And then, “Senator Obama, what do you think about what Senator Clinton said about what you said about what she said?” Absolutely nothing except an effort to provoke an interpersonal spat about someone being rude to someone, and they stood there and poked at each other.

            But, miracle of miracles, Obama and Clinton managed to pivot into a substantive discussion about health care…at which point a chuckling Wolf Blitzer interrupts to say, “Whoa, now, there’s going to be plenty of time tonight to talk about health care. Senator Edwards, what do you think about what Senator Clinton said about what Senator Obama said?”

            Asshats. Stupid, irresponsible, self-important asshats.


      • Santorum:

        “Well, I’d rip the intestines out of every grandmother in every nursing home and tie them into knotted ropes and hang the Taliban.

        Michelle? Your turn!”

        • Holden Pattern

          Solving the problem of Medicare costs as well!

      • Bill Murray

        Maybe they could bring the Kitty Dukakis Gotcha

        • “Mrs Bachmann…let’s say Marcus was raped in your home. Would you request the death penalty? Would Marcus, or would he ask for the phone number?”

  • Michael Drew

    I thought this article was poorly written and confusing. Too much implied legal theory (“Torture really did become legal after 9/11”? Lithwick means that in a very specific way, but doesn’t have the space or license to say what that way is.), not enough explanation, because slate can’t take all that on board. Lithwick can do this stuff justice, but she’s in the wrong place to do it. She belongs in academia.

    • Dahlia Lithwick

      She belongs in academia.


      • Michael Drew

        Hello! Quite a bromide, right?

        I seem to be next to the only person who had this reaction to your piece, but I’m offering my critique in a number of places, in hopes you’ll see it, and by all means ignore it if you find it as odd as apparently everyone else does.

        But basically I feel like, at best, you are oversimplifying rather involved theoretical questions into very black-and-white statements that, well, aren’t true. Or at least require a lot more explanation than you offer in the piece.

        It’s not that I don’t agree that prosecuting Cheney and others would be very good for the rule of law in our country. But to say that “Torture really did become legal in this country after 9/11” seems to me, well, to be almost ostentatiously making a claim that begs further explanation as to what definitions and concepts in relies upon, and then you don’t offer them.

        Just my reaction. Perhaps you will consider it.

  • R, Johnston

    Lithwick reads Cheney so you don’t have to.

    Lithwick reads Cheney because she’s paid to. If you have to read Cheney to know what he wrote then you’re too stupid to vote for Rick Perry. The chances of Dick Cheney’s book containing anything that even a libertarian couldn’t guess before reading it are less than the chances of Rey Ordonez winning the 1889 AL MVP.

  • cpinva

    if the world court at the hague had any balls, they would issue indictments/warrants for both bush & cheney. they won’t of course, because they certainly don’t want to offend the US.

It is main inner container footer text