In an online chat with the Washington Post today, former UN Ambassador John Bolton — who is “known to be close to Vice President Dick Cheney” — was asked if the way Cheney “has dramatically altered the role and power of the vice presidency” was “a positive change.” Noting “Cheney’s role reflects a continuing evolution of his office,” Bolton responded, “I think this is entirely a positive development“:
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador: Vice President Cheney has dramatically altered the role and power of the vice presidency in this administration. Is this a positive change? Do you see future administrations retaining a more useful role for the VP, and who in current politics has the strength of character, in either party, to follow Mr. Cheney’s lead in wielding even a part of that power in what can be an essentially unaccountable role?
JOHN BOLTON: I think that Vice President Cheney’s role reflects a continuing evolution of his office. It is true he has more responsibilities that any prior Vice President, but his immediate predecessor, Vice President Gore, had more responsibilities than any of his. I think this is entirely a positive development.
Bolton, who was part of the team of lawyers that fought the 2000 Florida recount on behalf of Bush and Cheney, shares many of Cheney’s views on expansive executive power. For instance, in 2006, when Bolton’s Senate confirmation was set to fail, he and Cheney sought “some way to bypass the Senate.”
Given their relationship, it’s not surprising that Bolton would consider Cheney’s efforts to increase the power of the Vice Presidency a “positive development.” Here are a few examples:
– Upon taking office, “Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to ‘every table and every meeting,’ making his voice heard in ‘whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in.'”
– In 2001, Cheney convinced President Bush to strip foreign terrorism suspects of “access to any court” while circumventing both the Secretary of State and the National Security Adviser, whom only learned of the order from the press.
– In 2002, Cheney also cut Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice out of the development of policy narrowly defining “torture” to mean only suffering “equivalent in intensity” to the pain of “organ failure…or even death.”
– In 2003, Cheney exempted his office from an executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information by claiming that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch.”
In praising Cheney’s expansion of power, Bolton may just be returning the favor for the Vice President’s vocal support of his UN appointment. In 2005, Cheney told reporters that Bolton would have “a great deal more credibility” at the UN because of his Cheney-like views.