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Well, the only language Cheney understands is force. And even if it were to fail, the instructive power of the exercise would be considerable. Most Americans are not yet fully aware that this vice-president believes that the executive branch is not subject to domestic or international law, has inherent powers to arrest, detain indefinitely without charges and torture anyone on earth if it so wishes, and can wire-tap Americans without any court oversight for good measure. These are not emergency powers in wartime, but permanent new powers since we are in permanent new state of war. Alongside our constitution, Cheney has constructed a rival governing force, a protectorate, answerable to no one and no law, dedicated to our security. We do get to select that protector every four years (our "accountability moment"), but that's the extent of our ultimate constitutional and legal protection. This is not self-government; it's delegation of power to a single leader-guardian-decider. The president is not really the president in this constitutional model. Presidents preside over a constitutional order. Protectors act as constant and energetic guardians of the security of others. They are outside the law, because they believe the law impedes the necessity for risk-free security.

A debate that helped flush out this theory of executive power, that exposed its workings clearly and forced Cheney to defend and explain it under oath may not lead to successful conviction, but it would be a national service, especially if Cheney's protectorate is going to be inherited by a person as power-hungry, secretive and ruthless as Senator Clinton. A reader adds:

[T]he Founding Fathers created an asymmetrical impeachment system. A president or vice president can be impeached by the House on a simple majority vote. But it requires two-thirds to convict in the Senate. I think one can clearly infer from this that the Founding Fathers did not intend for impeachment to be extraordinarily difficult, but they did wish to guard against its abuse. This being the case, I don’t think it is wrong for the House to institute impeachment proceedings against Cheney if any vice president in our history deserves it, it is him. And keep in mind that no claim of executive privilege would be possible in an impeachment investigation without creating additional grounds for impeachment. So what if the effort dies in the Senate? If the Founding Fathers wanted the bar set high they would have required a two-thirds vote in the House as well.

What's stopping the Dems? It's time to out-Cheney Cheney.

(Photo: Stephen Chernin/Getty.)

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