War and democracy

Slate's blog on legal issues.
March 19 2008 5:24 AM

War and democracy

I'd like to add to the Cheney discussion that Adam , Jack , Eric and Dawn have been having with a note about his comments today on the war, because I think they illuminate further his views on executive power.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz sat down with Vice President Dick Cheney to get his views on the Iraq war for a segment airing today, the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Not surprisingly, Cheney remains an aggressive supporter of the Iraq war, defying anyone who questions the raison d'etre for the invasion.  However, today, he went a step further , dismissing the American people themselves as irrelevant:

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MS. RADDITZ:  Tell me what you said to the Iraqi leadership and how far you're willing to push them.

VICE PRES. CHENEY:  On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress -- that the surge has worked.  That's been a major success.

MS. RADDITZ:  Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting.

VICE PRES. CHENEY:  So?

MS. RADDITZ:  So?  You're not -- you don't care what the American people think?

VICE PRES. CHENEY:  No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.  There has, in fact, been fundamental change and transformation, and improvement for the better.  That's a huge accomplishment.

Well, at least we know where he stands .  This statement goes beyond mere stubborn belief in his own policies, or disdain for opinion polling.  He's effectively saying the people's views are irrelevant -- and that the White House will decide the course of the nation, irrespective of what the people say.  I understand that we only elect a President and Vice President every four years, and that strictly speaking, public opinion isn't directly relevant to his actions on a day-to-day basis.  But this is war, not some minor matter of policy.  It is the people who must ultimately shoulder the burden of this war, whether through taxes or military service.  Their views ought to count for something; something more than Cheney's remarks suggest.

I'm curious to hear what my Convictions colleagues think about Cheney's comments -- particularly those of you who have served in the Justice Department as attorneys and advisers to presidents in the past.

Phillip Carter is an Iraq veteran who now directs the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security.

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