Sooner or later, liberals will learn to not provoke Liz Cheney on issues of national security.
Those who watch the news for information other than the tragic death (and subsequent funeral circus) of Michael Jackson have most likely heard of the most recent round of accusations made by congressional liberals against the Central Intelligence Agency. On the July 14 “Morning Joe,” the former vice president's daughter issued a thrashing of Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who (one would guess) did not adequately prepare to argue about the laws concerning when the CIA is required to brief Congress.
Robinson first submits the following:
EUGENE ROBINSON, Washington Post columnist: Hi, Liz, how are you? I have a question. I actually have a question for Liz in a minute, but you know, look, it's inconvenient that there is a law, there is a 1947 law that requires that Congress be briefed on significant intelligence operations or activities or anticipated significant intelligent activity, so it seems to be clear that they should have been briefed. And if the Vice President told the CIA not to brief Congress then that was wrong.
That certainly sounds correct, at least on the surface – if that’s the law, that’s the law.
Except, that’s not the law:
LIZ CHENEY: With respect to the law, it's really important to look at the specific language of the law. And the language of the law makes absolutely clear, and this is an issue that the White House and Congress have been fighting over for many years now, and frankly continue to fight over today, which is who has ultimate authority. But the law is clear. The law says that the executive branch can make these decisions about when to brief, and they can make decisions based on concern about whether or not it's going to hurt sources and methods, and whether or not the information is going to be leaked. And I would just point out –
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, "Morning Joe" co-host: Eugene, hold on one second. And Dan is going to chime in.
CHENEY: – and I think it's instructive, if you look at fact that these programs, this plan was kept secret for eight years, and then apparently, as soon as we briefed the Congress, now it's public. I think that tells you why there may have been concern about briefing the Congress.
As it turns out, the law doesn’t require the CIA to brief Congress in all cases. And yet, Robinson harangues:
But you can’t have absolute discretion in the executive branch not to follow the law. You can’t – you can’t have that.
That’s not at all what is at argument here. The point is, Vice President Cheney did follow the law. Whether or not the law is poorly written is another issue entirely. In fact, Robinson comes back to this idea several times through the conversation:
ROBINSON: here is no point in having a law if the executive branch has complete discretion not to follow the law.
CHENEY: The law gives the executive branch the right to make these decisions.
ROBINSON: But the bottom line is the law is meaningless, the law is absolutely meaningless, if the executive branch can decide in all cases not to brief Congress.
CHENEY: Eugene, you’ve got to go read the language of the law. Because the law makes absolutely clear when they are concerned about sources and methods they can take that into account when they’re making decisions about briefing the Congress.
One can make an argument that the law is poorly written, if the intent is for Congress to provide oversight of the executiv branch.. But to succumb to the Kos-head argument that a.) The law is poorly written, so b.) Cheney necessarily broke the poorly written law, is intellectually dishonest – and at least in this case, didn’t work.
This isn’t even the only instance of bias Robinson showed in this segment. Another instance of bias is manifested in Robinson’s willingness to accept the Democrats’ premise, without questioning the manner in which they presented it:
DAN SENOR, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations: And Eugene, if they were serious questions which I believe is motivating you to be asked, it would not have been handled in the way it was handled. The House Intelligence Committee chairman issued a press release making news about this before he even alerted Republican members of the committee. I mean, this was totally structured like a political rollout. And it’s just so unbelievably hypocritical that for years, the Democrats have been demonizing the Bush/Cheney years for politicization of the intelligence community, and they are playing politics, the Democrats now, it seems, with intelligence, too. And I just think, to stew this up right now is dangerous for the reasons Liz said, and politically, an enormous distraction for the administration.
BRZEZINSKI: Eugene, your response?
ROBINSON: I don't see that as a politicalization. I see it as a separation of powers issue, and I see it as a legitimate issue, one we have visited before and will visit again.
So the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issues a press release manufactured entirely within his caucus, without the knowledge of the Republican ranking member or any other Republican on the committee, with Rep.Eshoo becoming suddenly and inexplicably available for interviews on the subject – and that’s not a political maneuver?
Hypothetically speaking, if it were a separation of powers issue, would you not immediately contact the ranking member of your committee and offer him the chance to publicly throw proverbial stones at the President? If this isn’t about bashing former Vice President Cheney, why would you exclude every Republican on the committee from the opportunity to help you call for an investigation?
Eugene Robinson engaged in a battle of wits, unarmed. ‘Twas lovely to see bias so publicly destroyed.