By now you've heard about Dick Cheney's fascinating new legal argument that he's not in the executive branch, so he doesn't have to comply with executive secrecy rules. I'm not always Rahm Emanuel's biggest fan, but his plan to cut executive-branch funding for the VP's office is a very sensible response. On the other hand, let's not be hasty about this. After all, if Cheney's not in the Executive Branch he can't claim executive privilege.
"If he believes his legal case," Mr. Emanuel wrote in an email, "his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch." But imagine how much light we can shed into the dark corners of Mr. Cheney's office if his argument holds.
Surely you remember that infamous energy task force, the one where Mr. Cheney let his oil industry pals and their lobbyists come in and literally write their own rules? Cheney argued that the public had no right to information about the workings of that task force - because of executive privilege.
How about those executive branch visitor logs we've all been dying to see? I'd love to know how much time Jack Abramoff spent in Cheney's offices, and who he visited there. And, of course, there's the matter of Scooter Libby. With executive privilege out of the way, we can finally figure out whether there was an "underlying crime" or not. (Extra! Othello exonerated for strangling Desdemona - there was "no underlying crime" of adultery.)
Mr. Emanuel, I respect your smarts and your chutzpah for coming up with this strategy. If for any reason it doesn't work out, however, here's your silver lining: A Vice President who's not in the Executive Branch can't withhold information from legislators under the separation of powers doctrine.
In fact, here's an even better idea: Since he says he's fundamentally a member of the Senate, why not bring him up on Senatorial ethics charges? Let the investigations commence!
This may have seemed like a clever move at the time. Cheney et al. may think the band's playing "Catch Us If You Can," but the tune I hear sounds more like "Let The Sun Shine In."