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Dick Cheney, The Fourth Branch Of Government

Our esteemed vice president has apparently prevailed in his fight to declare himself part of neither the executive nor the legislative branch, and thus not required to open his office's records to public scrutiny:

The Democrats are conceding defeat. The party’s top investigator in the House of Representatives acknowledges that there is nothing more he can do to force the vice president’s hand.

“He has managed to stonewall everyone,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I’m not sure there’s anything we can do.”

Waxman said that despite Cheney’s turning this administration into “one of the most secretive in history,” there’s not much he or anyone else can do because the administration has only a few more months left in office. ...

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), a branch of the National Archives, confirmed that it does not possess any reports about what data Cheney’s office has classified or declassified. The Office of the Vice President (OVP) has previously done so in accordance with an executive order created by President Clinton in 1995, which aimed to create a uniform system of protecting classified information.

Similarly, Cheney’s staff information is not included in the Plum Book, which identifies all presidential-appointed positions. In the last Plum Book, the OVP was listed as Appendix 5, which stated that the vice president is part of neither the executive nor the legislative branch of government. (emphasis added) 

It's pretty astonishing that we have no idea who and how many people Cheney employs, or what information his office has classified. The sad thing is that Waxman's probably right: Democrats could try to wage an all-out legal battle to force Cheney to disclose all of this, but it wouldn't wrap up until after the next administration takes office, and in any case it doesn't seem prudent for Democrats to spend their political capital on such a bruising, ultimately irrelevant fight. (If it's too partisan and petty for Henry Waxman to spend time on--well, that tells you something.) They've got better things to do with their time than go after somebody with a 19 percent approval rating. Cheney will be remembered by history as a power-obsessed back-room operator whose disgraceful, deeply anti-republican conception of American government has been soundly rejected by more than four-fifths of his countrymen.

--Josh Patashnik