When was the last time, aside from the State of the Union address, that you saw Dick Cheney? The vice president has largely remained invisible these past few months. Early on in the administration, we often spoke about Cheney, either in the news or in his “undisclosed location.” In hiding after September 2001 or threatening to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Republicans’ favor when the Senate was split 50-50 before the 2002 midterm elections, there was always enough attention on the vice president. This, coupled with his occasional heart trouble, kept him in the headlines or on “Meet the Press” to explain the president’s agenda and policy (a job the president has recently decided to take into his own hands). Now, however, we don’t see him, and it is hardly coincidence.
But this week marked a dramatic shift, when Americans were reminded who their vice president was as he re-emerged in the newspapers and on cable news political talk shows. As Director of the Central Intelligence Agency George J. Tenet spoke to students and faculty at Georgetown University and testified before the House Intelligence Committee, whispers of rumor involving Vice President Cheney and his selective “cherry picking” of intelligence began to emerge, according to House Democrats. This is just the latest in a flurry of bad press for Cheney that has resulted in the vice president’s approval rating to stand at a meager 20 percent. In an election year, when the president’s approval rating has dropped to 49 percent, the first time it has been below 50 percent in his entire administration, Cheney’s bad press could prove costly.
In addition to rumors involving the vice president’s calculated selective use of intelligence reports, it appears that Cheney has broadened his horizons to include meddling with the judiciary. Last Friday’s newspapers carried the story describing how Cheney hosted Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on a duck hunting excursion in Louisiana. The trip, whose cost was absorbed by taxpayers, occurred just as the Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case on government secrecy. In the case, Vice President Cheney is the defendant. While politicos marched out law professors to discuss Scalia’s possible recusal, I think everyone can agree that this impropriety could have easily been avoided. Vice President Cheney should know that his position in executive branch precludes him from this kind of interaction with a justice of the Supreme Court.
The most perturbing allegation involving Cheney concerns the vice president’s dealings with Halliburton, an oil field servicing company for which Cheney was CEO in the 1990s. Last week, the press reported that the Department of Justice had requested from Halliburton documents relating to the construction of a Nigerian natural gas plant in the late 1990s. An alleged $180 million in illegal payments were made to Nigerian officials while Cheney was the company’s chief executive officer. In addition, last December, Halliburton, without the usual process of government bidding, was awarded the exclusive privilege to repair and modernize Iraq’s oil fields. As the issue of the accuracy of government intelligence is further fleshed out, it is becoming more apparent that the Office of Special Plans in the Department of Defense — the committee chaired by the vice president that gathered intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — may have prescreened information to provide a biased picture. As the number of Americans killed in Iraq tops 530 and American taxpayers pump $1 billion weekly into the occupied nation, the suspect intelligence that prompted the use of force and the actions of Vice President Cheney will continue to be a liability for the Bush administration.
Whether it is tampering with judicial impartiality, presenting intelligence in a biased manner, or filling coffins while filling coffers by granting his former company an advantage on government contracts, Vice President Cheney is a troubling influence in the White House. I hope we continue to see more of Cheney in the press, as he represents a further blemish on the president’s already questionable integrity on the war in Iraq. Perhaps when a face is attached to this sort of impropriety, Americans will fully comprehend the scandalous actions of the executive branch.
Jonathan Menitove is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.