No Comment — June 4, 2007, 8:07 am

A Vice President Above the Law

The hallmark of the Bush Administration is impunity. The last leader of the English-speaking world to openly hold himself above the law wound up having his head separated from his body by a sharp blade in 1649. But Cheney succeeds where others before him were brought to a fall. And his formula for success is simple: complete and utter contempt for the law. Of course it’s nothing new for American vice presidents to dabble in the criminal – Aaron Burr was a murderer; and Spiro Agnew involved himself in petty Maryland construction scams. But Cheney’s unseemliness far outstrips Burr or Agnew. The New York Times editorial today recounts Cheney’s long list of corrupt acts:

  • His obsession with secrecy in all respects surrounding himself; his arrangement for the destruction of public records to eliminate a trail of his meetings;
  • His receipt of salary payments from Halliburton during his period as vice president which exceed the pay he draws from the Treasury. And, as Time magazine showed, Halliburton got its money’s worth, since Cheney intervened to support a raft of no-bid multibillion dollar contracts that it secured after Cheney moved back to Washington.
  • His sponsorship of terrorism as the new Cheney-style American way; and his decision to give a Memorial Day speech at West Point denigrating the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions – such outmoded thinking!

They sum it up:

Reviewing this record — secrecy, impatience with government regulations, backroom dealings, handsome paydays — it dawned on us that Mr. Cheney is in step with the times. He has privatized the job of vice president of the United States.

Of course, this list is only a beginning. What about war crimes? What about his conspiracy to out a covert CIA agent? Still, one solution for the public is to take a cue from Maureen Dowd and shorten Cheney’s job title. From now on, let’s just make it “vice.” It’s such a fitting name for him.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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