A Confederacy of Dunces?

The news media in this country continues to go downhill, playing on the sad fact that the majority of Americans do not pay much attention to detail of current events unless it involves Paris Hilton or the next American Idol.

ABC ran some comments on their “Good Morning America” section today regarding Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent argument over turning documents over to the National Archives. Unfortunately, their opening sarcasm plays on the general ignorance of the population:

A quick civics quiz: Is the vice president part of the executive branch? You might think the answer is obvious, but apparently not to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The man a heartbeat away from the Oval Office asserts that some rules that apply to everyone else in the executive branch do not apply to him.

[ A quick civics quiz: Is the vice president part of the executive branch? ]

Why do I say this is unfortunate? ABC (and others) would have you believe that this is about the Vice President’s office being part of the Executive Branch. If you only get your news from such upstanding and non-biased news broadcasts as “Good Morning America,” then you might believe that is the argument. However, that is not entirely the case. Dropping a single word off the end of the statement gives this entirely different meaning. This is about whether they are an Executive Branch Agency.

Here is another example with an obvious agenda to throw Cheney under the bus, this one from Time.com:

<blockquote> Cheney’s dustup with the normally non-controversial National Archives and Records Administration is the latest reminder that Cheney believes he can play by his own rules.

[ The Cheney Branch of Government ]</blockquote>

Certainly, this is editorial commentary so it cannot be considered news, per say. However, it makes no mention of the real issue at bar, a discussion over the wording of the executive order in question. This should not be played out in the media as some kind of national scandal or a conspiracy by the Vice President that he is above law. This really is an internal scuffle within the Executive Branch over what the terms of the executive order specifically mean. Cheney’s office feels that it is unique in that it has responsibilities in both the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch.

Should Cheney comply? I don’t know. I am not an attorney. But I do know there will be much legal agonizing over the difference between “Executive Branch” and “Executive Branch Agency.”

Can you find specific Constitutional support for or against this argument? I cannot. But the general media would have you believe that this is somehow unconstitutional or that Cheney is acting without oversight. That certainly is not the case, since he does, in fact, answer to Congress and can be impeached just as the President. Feel free to peruse the Constitution here.

And the media should be treating it as such. Instead, they choose to play to the political grandstanding of people like Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Il who has authored a bill that would cut funding to the Vice President’s office.

[ Cheney says his office is exempt from Bush order ]

Since I began working on this post, Cheney’s office has released a response to the current hubbub. You can review that here:

Cheney Aide Explains Stance on Classified Material