CHENEY REDUX….In the previous post I suggested that Dick Cheney’s secrecy regarding his energy task force meetings was genuinely based on his belief that it was important to reassert the prerogatives of the executive branch. Just for the hell of it, though, here’s the devil’s advocate view.

Cast your mind back to early 2001. It was before 9/11, before Abu Ghraib, before the signing statements and the suspension of habeas corpus. George Bush had just spent the previous year campaigning as a compassionate conservative. He had promised to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. He had won a bitter recount in Florida and the conventional wisdom suggested that the closeness of his victory meant that he’d need to adopt a moderate, bipartisan tone. And, in fact, he was doing just that, inviting Ted Kennedy to screenings in the White House theater while they worked together like old friends to pass No Child Left Behind. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time spring was in the air.

Today, this is all long gone. We look at the people Cheney met with and our reaction is “Eh. What else did you expect?” But back in early 2001, that wasn’t what people expected. They still believed in Bush the bipartisan moderate consensus builder, the new kind of Republican who wasn’t solely beholden to the usual corporate interests. Making the list of task force meetings public would have put something of a crimp in that image, wouldn’t it?

In the end, I think Cheney’s stubbornness over this really was just stubbornness based on his belief in a strong executive. But there was plenty of self-interest involved too. Bush wanted the country to believe that he was an environmentally sensitive guy, and letting the public know who his energy task force was meeting with would have deep sixed that image pretty quickly. So they kept it secret.