Biden Reinforces the Point

by Shannen W. Coffin

Vice President Cheney had a little fun at his successor-to-be’s expense today, telling Fox News Sunday that he didn’t take Joe Biden’s criticism of his tenure too seriously because Joe Biden doesn’t know the Constitution from a hole in the ground.  Bill Sammon reports that Cheney said:  “Joe’s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can’t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature and which provides for the executive. So I think I’d write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don’t take it seriously.”  Cheney was referring to Biden’s VP debate gaffe (discussed here), in which he confused Articles of the Constitution addressing the authority of the Legislative Branch (Article I) and the Executive Branch (Article II).     Biden “bit back,” according to Sammon, but unfortunately, he seems to have bitten himself.  According to Biden, Cheney’s “notion of a unitary executive, meaning that, in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive, I think is dead wrong.”  Well, once again, Mr. Biden, that’s no one’s notion of the unitary executive except confused Democrats.  The unitary executive is simply a recognition, from the first sentence of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, that the “executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  For the umpteenth time, it is not a theory that the president’s power is somehow enhanced, at the expense of Congress, during wartime.  It is merely a recognition that there is only one (i.e., uni-tary) executive and that any efforts by Congress to give executive authority to someone other than the President is unconstitutional.  It is not a theory about the balance of power between the branches, but a statement about the authority of the president within the Executive Branch.  The “notion” that a “unitary executive” means that “in time of war, essentially all power, goes to the executive,” is indeed dead wrong.  But it’s Biden’s misconception of that theory that is wrong, not Cheney’s.
Keep it up, Joe.  At this rate, you’ll know more about the Constitution than your non-lawyer predecessor in, well, never.   

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