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Dick Cheney's Legacy – A Plum Job?

The 2008 Plum Book has been published. The Plum Book is the listing of all of the positions that an incoming U.S. President may fill by appointment. It's a sort of wish-list for people with connections to the President-Elect.

In the 2000 Plum Book, at the close of the Clinton Administration, the Office of the Vice President was listed under the umbrella of the Executive Branch.

At the time, the formal powers and role of the vice president were limited by the Constitution to becoming President should the President become incapacitated and sometimes acting as the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate. As President of the Senate, the Vice President has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College.

Then an interesting change appeared in the 2004 Plum Book that was consistent with, and perhaps expands upon, the neoconservative unitary executive theory, which basically seeks to limit Congressional influence over the powers of the executive branch.

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In 2004 and in 2008, however, the Office of the Vice President has been listed in the Plum Book under Appendix No. 5, as opposed to being listed under the executive branch as it was in 2000. Per the Appendix (2008): "The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code)."

It is worth remembering that in the not-too-distant past, Vice President Cheney declared the Vice Presidency an office unto itself, separate from the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal Government and answerable to nobody. In 2007, Maureen Dowd reported in the New York Times that Cheney had declared, "that the Office of the Vice President is not an 'entity within the executive branch' and therefore is not subject to presidential executive orders." This is a radical departure from the duties of the Vice Presidency formally laid out in the Constitution.

Now, would Cheney want the powers that he claimed for himself conferred upon Joe Biden when he assumes office in January? Did the persons tasked with creating the 2008 Plum Book leave the Bush Administration's changes regarding the Vice Presidency in place by design or by accident? Either way, imagine being your very own unique branch of government. Sounds like a plum job to me. Joe Biden must be very happy.

Oh, and just for fun, it is also worth noting that the 2004 Plum Book listed 2,329 more job titles than did the 2000 Plum Book. This from the Republicans who espouse smaller and limited government.

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