Saturday, June 23, 2007

In your face Dick!

Atrios shares this gem of a response from Rahm Emanuel.
Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the executive branch. The legislation -- the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill -- will be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives next week.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice
President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue to pursue this measure in the coming days."
Steve Benen at TPM provides some context:

The background details are surprisingly straightforward. In 1995, the Clinton White House issued an executive order establishing uniform rules for protecting classified information. In 2003, the Bush White House revised it. The order plainly includes any executive-branch agency, any military department, and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information." The entire branch of government, the order said, is subject to oversight.

This week, however, in light of revelations about the White House ignoring its own E.O., the Bush gang started spinning like a top.

The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 -- amending an existing order -- requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

Look, I can appreciate the fact that the White House is in a jam here. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the gang repeatedly mishandled classified materials during a time of war, got caught, ignored their own rules, and is now struggling to rationalize their conduct. When the federal agency responsible for oversight tried to do its job, the Vice President reportedly tried to abolish the agency. This isn't a fact-pattern that's easy to spin.

But the explanations thus far have been transparently ridiculous, up to and including the notion that the Vice President, as defined in Article II of the Constitution, isn't actually part of the executive branch of government.

Benen again:

In yesterday's painfully-amusing White House press briefing, spokesperson Dana Perino argued, without explanation, that the president exempted Dick Cheney from an Executive Order on preserving classified materials. In fact, she got rather specific about it, telling reporters that on page 18 of the E.O., "There's a distinction regarding the Vice President versus what is an agency." Perino added that this is "clear."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's staff looked at page 18. Take a wild guess what they found.

"No exemption at all for the Vice President on page 18. So we emailed the White House, which referred us to section 1.3 -- which is about something else altogether -- and 5.2 -- which makes no mention of the Vice President. In fact, there is no exemption for the President or the Vice President when it comes to reporting on classified material.

Faiz added that the language of the E.O. is rather sweeping: "Sec. 6.1(b) of Bush's 2003 executive order governing classified material explicitly states that it applies to any 'Executive agency...any 'Military department'...and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.'"

Sounds "clear" to me.


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