THE IMPERIAL VICE-PRESIDENCY….Brad Plumer, after looking over the names of the people Dick Cheney’s energy task force met with back in 2001, reacts with the same question a lot of other people have been asking:
Everyone knew he was taking marching orders from the American Petroleum Institute. Everyone knew about Ken Lay. So why did Cheney keep these names classified for six years — citing executive privilege and going all the way to the Supreme Court to prevent Congress from knowing what went on. What difference would it have made? Was he just being secretive for the hell of it?
Actually, I think the record on this is crystal clear. Ever since he was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff Cheney has believed that the post-Watergate Congress stripped far too much power from the presidency and that someone needed to restore it. That someone turned out to be him. Obviously he has a considerable amount of self-interest in this project now that he’s vice president, but I also don’t think there’s any question that he genuinely believes this as a matter of principle. His refusal to release the energy task force schedule was almost certainly driven primarily by a belief that he needed to reassert the prerogatives of a strong executive and that this was the best place to start.
So: not quite just for the hell of it. But close.