When you’re the Vice President of the United States and your office uses farfetched arguments to defend your policies, maybe it’s time to review your logic.

Dick Cheney’s aides have supported his office’s refusal to comply with an executive order because, they’ve said, the Veep is not part of the government’s executive branch. Huh? Seems his duties as president of the Senate, part of the legislative branch, exempt him from executive orders.

The White House now has backed off Cheney’s approach and welcomed him back into the executive branch—but he still doesn’t have to comply.

Confused? Amused? Disturbed?

Civics Lesson

I’ve forgotten more of my early education than I care to admit, but I do remember junior high school civics class: Executive, legislative, and judicial. President and VP are executive branch, Congress is legislative, Supreme Court is judicial.

In 2003, President Bush amended an existing executive order about classified information in light of post-9/11 security concerns. Executive branch entities are to report to an oversight agency about how they handle classified material.

Bush’s order applies to executive agencies and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information. {1} You would think that includes the Office of the Vice President, but Cheney’s office has refused since 2003 to comply.

Logical problems with the dual-role argument are legion. Cheney in the past has invoked executive privilege to maintain secrets. Surely having legislative branch duties does not negate one’s executive branch status. Can a student disobey school rules because s/he also participates in community service projects?

Cheney’s Gift to Jon Stewart

Recently the dual-role logic made headlines. Administration critics howled. Humorists roared. “Cheney’s gift to Jon Stewart,” remarked one journalist friend. The Comedy Central’s Daily Show TV anchor joked that Cheney was establishing himself as the fourth branch of government. {2}

Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois proposed cutting funding for Cheney’s office and home. “He’s not part of the executive branch. We’re not going to fund something that doesn’t exist,” said Emanuel according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’m following through on the vice president’s logic, no matter how ludicrous it might be.” {3} The funding cut narrowly failed in the House.

TheWashington Post noted that Emanuel also opposed Cheney’s participation in the congressional baseball game because “he would remake the rules to his liking.” {4}

Now a White House spokesman says the dual-role argument is not necessary. He says the executive order explicitly gives Cheney the same standing in the matter as Bush, who issued and enforces the order, so the subordinate oversight agency has no authority to investigate Cheney. {5}

That huge sigh you hear is America relieved that a constitutional crisis has been averted. The internal dispute was passed on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who, of course, has his own critics.

The Question Remains

But the question remains, what are we to make of a high government office that would use such unreasonable reasoning in the first place? Are its leaders naive? Desperate? Covering up something? Blind to the obvious?

The entire episode hints of George Orwell’s Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Cheney’s distorted logic involves focusing on his lesser legislative responsibility and minimizing his major executive responsibilities. Another adept social critic, Jesus of Nazareth, once rebuked some legalistic leaders for majoring on the minors and minimizing what’s important. “Blind guides!” he called them. “You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!” {6}

Cheney seems to—or seems to want us to—strain the gnat and swallow the camel. Is it a wonder such tenuous logic makes observers suspicious?


1. George W. Bush, Executive Order: Further Amendment to Executive Order 12958, As Amended, Classified National Security Information; The White House, March 25, 2003; 6.1 (b);, accessed June 29, 2007.
2. “The Daily Show: Non-Executive Decision,”, accessed June 29, 2007.
3. Leora Falk, “Emanuel seeks to cut funding for Cheney’s office, home,” Chicago Tribune, June 26, 2007;; accessed June 29, 2007.
4. Dana Milbank, “The Cheese Stands Alone,” The Washington Post, June 26, 2007, A02;; accessed June 29, 2007.
5. Jim Rutenberg, “White House Drops Vice President’s Dual-Role Argument as Moot,” The New York Times, June 28, 2007;; accessed June 29, 2007.
6. Matthew 23:24 NLT.


2007 Probe Ministries

Rusty Wright, former associate speaker and writer with Probe Ministries, is an international lecturer, award-winning author, and journalist who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at

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