Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Cheney's Stone Wall

January 29, 2002

Vice President Dick Cheney may be spending too much time in underground bunkers. His refusal to hand over information to Congress about secret meetings of his energy task force last spring with corporate executives, including Enron's, suggests that he has become blinded to the fact that democracy relies on open government.

On television this past weekend, Cheney inflated his position into a mini-constitutional crisis, declaring he is determined to stem the erosion of executive power that has taken place over the past three decades. But even leading Republicans--including Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of a House committee that is investigating Enron--are now calling on Cheney to cough up the documents, and his stonewalling is fueling the perception that the administration has something to hide.

On Sunday, the vice president demonized Rep. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles, charging that the Democrat is on a personal crusade to tarnish the White House. But Waxman, along with John G. Dingell (D-Mich.), asked for the information way back in April, long before Enron became synonymous with scandal. What's more, neither Waxman nor the others picking up the disclosure chant, including Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), have made specific allegations of misdeeds.

In his television attack, Cheney also asserted that General Accounting Office head David M. Walker had backed away from suing for the information. In fact, Walker says he decided to go easy in his pursuit of the information in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 and may still sue to make the documents public if Cheney isn't forthcoming.

Finally, Cheney was really reaching when he claimed there is no reason to hand over information because "there is no evidence to indicate anybody did anything wrong in the administration." What elected official wouldn't love to get away with that line of argument? Most citizens would rather decide for themselves.

Long before Enron imploded, we called on Cheney to come clean about the energy task force. Now, and with good reason, the pressure on him has multiplied. Enron was the biggest corporate donor to the Bush campaign. No fewer than 17 provisions in the final energy task force report would have benefited the company. One, added at the last minute, for instance, urged President Bush to push India to increase oil and gas exploration--a possible boon to Enron's money-losing natural gas plant in Dabhol, India.

At Enron, executives were able to escape accountability through bluster or obfuscation. The public should hold the executive branch to a higher standard. In attacking Congress, Cheney is behaving as though the best defense is a good offense. But on Sunday he looked as feeble as the San Diego Chargers.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|