- “Some of his ideas are from another century.”
Larry King – July 31, 2007
KING: In that regard, “The New York Times,” which is — as you said, it’s not your favorite paper, reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the president’s intelligence gathering program.
Was it you?
CHENEY: I don’t recall the — first of all, I haven’t seen the story. I don’t recall that I gave instructions to that effect.
KING: That would be something you would recall.
CHENEY: I would think so. But, certainly, I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program and had been responsible and been working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the president for approval.
By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing sort of new about.
KING: But you didn’t send them to get Ash…
CHENEY: I don’t recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.
“Congress has been a big part of the problem,” declared Cheney, a veteran of the Ford administration. “A fundamental problem has been the extent to which we have restrained presidential authority over the last several years. … We have been concerned with the so-called myth of the imperial presidency.
“We must restore some balance” between Congress and the White House, Cheney insisted.
Gingrich vehemently disagreed. “What we need is a stronger Congress, not a weaker Congress,” he shot back. “The greatest danger of the Reagan administration is that conservatives will decide they can trust imperial presidents as long as they are right-wing when they are imperial.”
Almost to a man, the postwar conservatives who coalesced around William F. Buckley’s National Review associated presidential power with liberal activism and viewed Congress as the “conservative” branch. In 1960 NR senior editor “Willmoore Kendall, who had been one of Buckley’s professors at Yale, published an influential article called “The Two Majorities,” which made that case. In 1967, Russell Kirk and coauthor James McClellan praised the late Robert A. Taft, “Mr. Conservative,” for insisting that war had to be a last resort, threatening as it did to “make the American President a virtual dictator, diminish the constitutional powers of Congress, contract civil liberties, injure the habitual self-reliance and self-government of the American people, distort the economy, sink the federal government in debt, [and] break in upon private and public morality.”
Even so ardent a Cold Warrior as NR’s James Burnham recognized that “by the intent of the Founding Fathers and the letter and tradition of the Constitution, the bulk of the sovereign war power was assigned to Congress.” Burnham doubted that congressional control of the war power could be maintained, given the demands of modern war. But he wrote a book defending Congress’s centrality to the American constitutional system and warning that erosion of congressional power and the rise of activist presidents risked bringing about “plebiscitary despotism for the United States in place of constitutional government, and thus the end of political liberty.”