David Kurtz over at Talking Points Memo asks a fascinating question. Has Dick Cheney actually used the Office of Vice President to take executive control of the Federal Government? Is Bush merely a figurehead President?
David starts from a Washington Post article that is entitled "Vice President's Shadow Hangs Over Trial." For us Libby Trial junkies who have read Marcy Wheeler's liveblog of the trial (Click on the label "Liveblog" to get my articles providing links to the FireDogLake liveblog) it is obvious that everything about the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative goes back to Cheney himself. Libby is on trial because he is Cheney's consigliari. Libby also was working to protect Cheney which is (probably) the reason he got caught lying to the FBI and the Grand Jury.
Then, after a short and interesting diversion into the explanation in the *Plum Book why the list of employees of the Office of Vice President are not listed, David goes back to an article written for The American Prospect by Robert Kutner. Kutner wrote that it is mostly clear that the job of actually running the federal government has been taken over by Dick Cheney, leaving Bush to perform the ceremonial functions of President. (No surprise, actually.)
The problem is that this is an extra-Constitutional function which avoids all legislative oversight, especially since Cheney refuses to give out any information at all on who works for him, how many they are, what they do and how much they are paid. Apparently the OVP is paid through the Senate employee process, not that of the Executive Branch (if I have read that correctly.) The Congress, the Press and the Public hold Bush responsible for all the failures and any successes of the federal government, but in fact Bush seems to have almost nothing to do with it. Cheney is making and implementing the decisions in almost total secrecy and letting Bush take the rap for Cheney's failures.
This deserves a lot more looking into, especially by Congress.
* Plum Book - the list of government offices open to direct appointment without going through Civil Service. It is a list of about 7,000 federal jobs which can be filled by the incoming Presidential administration, including the heads of the various departments and their assistants.