The vice-president's radical views on the powers of the presidency may well foretell a very bruising couple of years in Washington as the White House battles a Congress of a different party. This analysis is sobering - and helpful in teasing out Cheney's consistency on this issue - from the 1970s on. Money quote:

"[Congress cannot] place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response," the Justice Department asserted in a September 2001 memo solicited by the White House. "These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the president alone to make."

The following year, the administration drew up secret legal opinions informing military and CIA interrogators that the president has the power to authorize them to violate laws banning torture.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign against Al Qaeda and its allies, [the anti-torture law] must be construed as not applying to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority," said an August 2002 memo, which was leaked to the media only after the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib came to light.

Then, in December 2005, The New York Times revealed that the administration was wiretapping Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without warrants, violating the 1978 surveillance law.

Three days later, Cheney sat down with reporters and laid out his belief "in a strong, robust executive authority." Bypassing the warrant law, he asserted, was "consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

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