On January 20 tricky Dick Cheney will execute his plan to escape Washington with records created during his tenure as vice president–unless he’s stymied by a court order. Cheney has long insisted that as president of the Senate he is not part of the executive branch. And the Bush administration has amended the Presidential Records Act (PRA)–a law passed by Congress in 1978 requiring the president and vice president to preserve and deposit their papers with the
National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA)–in a manner that may exempt Cheney from compliance.
To prevent this history heist, the
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
(CREW) filed a federal lawsuit September 8 seeking an injunction against Cheney’s intention to sequester eight years of government documents. I am one of seven plaintiffs, along with historian
Organization of American Historians,
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
, chief counsel of CREW, is our lawyer.
In addition to seeking a judgment against Cheney’s interpretation of the PRA, the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction requiring preservation of all documents pending resolution of the suit. Such a court order is needed in light of Cheney’s clear pattern of secrecy and obfuscation. In addition to being associated with the disappearance of e-mails related to the origins of the Iraq War, he has consistently refused to allow the NARA to inspect his office for compliance with classification requirements. He has also refused to provide information, as government ethics law requires, about travel funded by outside sources. He has even refused to provide Congress with a staff directory.
What is at stake is nothing less than the vitality of our democracy. After Bush and Cheney’s tenure has expired, it is the public’s right to know in a timely manner how they fulfilled their responsibilities. Their actions are not a privileged secret that they have the right to control. That is how dictatorships operate. It appears that the vice president, who purports to be the great champion of democracy abroad, cares little about sus- taining at home the openness that the democratic process requires. MARTIN SHERWIN
has confirmed to the New York Times what
revealed four years ago in
‘s HBO documentary: that
was at least peripherally involved in a secret effort to aid the Soviet Union when it was engaged in a death match with Nazi Germany. The Russians were then our allies and the Germans were our enemies. A few years later, that was no longer the case.
The sad thing is not what Sobell revealed but that he waited so long to say it. A lot of well-meaning people trusted his protestations of innocence and defended him. Imagine if he had said fifty years ago, “We came of age in the 1930s, when as Americans we suffered under the bankruptcy of capitalism and as Jews we experienced the evils of anti-Semitism. While GM was making engines for the Nazis, you bet we aided the Russians. Someone had to.” Maybe a few million GIs with vivid memories of places like the Ardennes and Arnhem wouldn’t have disagreed. Actually, the big news in the Rosenberg case was the release on September 11 of most of the grand jury minutes. They confirm that
‘s sister-in-law, lied about Ethel’s involvement. But the real story is that the prosecution knew it. If Sobell is right, the prosecution and
Judge Irving Kaufman
have blood on their hands. It was a legal lynching. Nothing more, nothing less. JEFF KISSELOFF
“The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
, September 15
“The American people can remain confident in the soundness and the resilience of our financial system.”
, September 15
“Our economy is structurally sound for the long term.”
George W. Bush
, February 11
“The economy is fundamentally sound.”
, October 1931
Something remarkable happened in Canada on September 10, and it offers an example of what ought to be possible in the United States. Canada’s television networks decided to exclude the leader of the country’s Green Party from nationally televised debates between the major party candidates competing in the country’s October 14 election. Though the Greens hold only one seat in Parliament, the party–like its US equivalent–is highly organized, has won many local offices and is competing in a sufficient number of constituencies to form a government. Green leader
launched a national campaign urging Canadians to “reclaim democracy” by demanding a place in the debates. Canadians responded, dispatching e-mails, letters and phone calls to the networks and the major-party leaders. Former Canadian Prime Minister
, who governed as a Progressive Conservative, joined the crusade, declaring, “The immediate question about Canada’s election is not who will win but how open and inclusive the campaign will be. Elections can confirm bad practices or change them. Ours need changing.” The day Clark spoke up, the networks and the major parties backed down, allowing May in.
We need a similar outcry in the United States. Excluding Green nominee
and their running mates–all of whom will be on enough ballots to conceivably, if not realistically, win the presidency–is not just undemocratic; it will narrow the quality of the discourse in the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates. Canada will have multiparty debates this fall. The United States should as well. JOHN NICHOLS
DOORS FOR PEACE:
On September 20 a very different kind of peace march will take place. Spearheaded by
Million Doors for Peace
campaign has enlisted 25,000 volunteers to knock on their neighbors’ doors–yup, a million of them–and ask people to sign a petition (milliondoorsforpeace.org/petition.php) urging the next Congress to bring US troops home from Iraq within one year.