Turns Out Cheney Was Never Really Vice President After All

I regret to inform you–and I do mean regret–that I’m going to have set aside a good deal of the next week “looking backward” at Dick Cheney’s career. His book is out next week and already he’s dropping some bombs, as only Dick can drop bombs.

Such as, for some period during his tenure as VP, there was a signed resignation letter in his man-sized safe (presumably right next to the Wilson op-ed on which Cheney hand-wrote an accusation that Plame sent her husband on a junket), known only to W and “a Cheney staffer.”

“I did it because I was concerned that — for a couple of reasons,” Cheney tells Jamie Gangel. “One was my own health situation. The possibility that I might have a heart attack or a stroke that would be incapacitating. And, there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice president who can’t function.”

Cheney kept the signed letter locked in a safe, he reveals in the memoir “In My Time,” which comes out Tuesday. President George W. Bush and a Cheney staffer knew about the letter.

I presume that NBC and ABC will be sufficiently incompetent that they won’t ask Cheney what the other reasons were. Or who the staffer was.

So barring actually learning that information (until I go shell out an inordinate amount for a book I plan to throw a lot), here are my guesses.

In addition to signing the letter in case his heart gave out and turned him into a vegetable, Cheney also kept it in case he suddenly got into very big legal trouble. Over leaking a CIA officer’s identity, maybe, over knowingly authorizing torture (including in a few cases I expect we’ll learn more about), or misusing the military. Or whatever else.

And if just one staffer ever knew of the letter, my bet is David Addington knew.

But here’s the thing. Once Cheney signed that resignation letter, was he still VP? Or does that mean all the things he did, bootstrapping his own constitutional power onto the President’s explicit power, were illegal? We know Republicans claimed that he could insta-declassify things like NIEs and CIA officers identities. But if he did that after having signed a letter of resignation that the President knew about, doesn’t that mean he wasn’t VP anymore? And those things were triply illegal?

Whoo boy. Send beer. I can tell already it’s gonna be a long week.

67 replies
  1. John Forde says:

    Why would we believe him that W knew? Addington is perfectly aligned. Bush is sometimes at cross purposes. When did DICK ever look out for anyone but DICK?

  2. clean that screen says:

    … and already he’s dropping some bombs, as only Dick can drop bombs.


    whoo boy did we blow boogs over that line.

    please affix BOOG BLOW ALERT signs to all future cheney posts. we thank you.

  3. joberly says:

    Maybe he was never Veep, but he did serve as Acting President twice (2002 and 2007) when Bush got a pair of colonscopies and invoked the 25th Amendment.

    In addition to NBC & ABC asking the “what” question, I hope they ask the “when” question about the writing of the resignation letter. Cheney’s wikipedia entry under “health problems” says five heart attacks (1978, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2010. During the Bush Administration, he was hospitalized for the following procedures:

    March 2001…”urgent” angioplasty
    June 2001…defrillator
    Sept. 2005…surgery to repair anyeurisms
    March 2007… thrombosis in left leg
    November 2007… more fibrillation

  4. William Ockham says:

    @emptywheel: In reality, in government jobs, a resignation letter doesn’t even technically exist until the addressee has it in hand. In private employment, there is often a notice period that has to be fulfilled. The clock only starts on that when you deliver the resignation to the appropriate person (and it is always best to send it electronically AND commit it to paper).

    I’m really curious about Cheney’s letter. Did it say “effective immediately”. Did he leave the dates blank and trust Addington to fill them in. I could totally see that happening.

  5. William Ockham says:

    @F.H.: I would put the odds at about

    94% David Addington
    5% Scooter Libby
    1% Anyone else

    Although the “anyone else” number might actually round down to zero…

  6. fnook says:

    Couldn’t the letter be drafted in such as way as to only be applicable in the event Cheney dies, suffers as debilitating stroke, or gets in indicted, etc, while serving as VP?

  7. DWBartoo says:

    Heya, EW.

    Help me here:”(until I go shell out an inordinant amount for a big I plan to throw a lot)”? Book?

    If Cheney were NOT “officially” VP, per your suspeculation, then all denials would be …
    legally “plausible”. If only Cheney had known that Osterity would win, then he might have been even more sanguine.

    (Of course, I’ve always imagine that Cheney was always in the room next to the one in which W talked with Gawd, with Cheney kind of “filling in” for the Big Guy … I further imagine that Cheney always regarded Himself as Preznit, enjoying pulling the long purse-strings which W danced upon the ends of …)

    Yes, the likely “staffer” was Addington, at slightly higher “odds” than WO suggests, above.


  8. jerryy says:

    “Whoo boy. Send beer. I can tell already it’s gonna be a long week.”

    Have you had a chance to sit down and catch your breath yet?

    Maybe the Shrub DID accept that letter of resignation, just in case you know, and did not tell anyone, waiting for that right moment. That could explain why Scooter did not get a full pardon.

  9. bombs dropping says:

    In the book Cheney reveals private conversations with Bush, and portrays the 43rd President as less than decisive at times. Cheney said he doesn’t think he betrayed Bush’s confidence.

    Cheney added that he knows the book will make people in Washington angry, saying “there are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington.”


    mine head essploded for 8 long gd nightmare years. 8 years that we are never ever gonna get back. what a waste.

  10. Bob Schacht says:


    I was gonna say that this sounded a lot like the old question, “If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound if no one is there?” But the answer is different because in the case of the resignation, the acceptance is necessary. (We know from physics that sound depends on the source, not the witness.)

    I have heard of cases (but can’t remember the details) where the executive in question kept the letter but didn’t acknowledge it– i.e., reserved the right to “accept” the resignation at a later date.

    Bob in AZ

  11. DWBartoo says:

    Cheney’s great concern for the nation, should he have become incapacitated, seems rather like the gentle concerns of the DC police, this past week, that White House protestors would become so deeply and unconsolably despondent that they might make use of their jackets or sweaters to hang themselves in some grief-stricken despair.

    The fundamental humanity of both great, deeply considered concerns seems so touchingly kind and prudently thoughtful that it is possumble that we have all slipped, some almost twelve years ago, if not longer, into some ‘leventy-‘leven-dimensional universe quite unlike the one we have all been imagining or thinking we actually inhabited.

    I mean, really, whocouldamagined?

    (The above is snark, should any confusions arise …)


  12. rg says:

    Whoever knew about the letter probably also knew the safe’s combination. That would imply tremendous trust.

  13. jo6pac says:

    In the book Cheney reveals private conversations with Bush, and portrays the 43rd President as less than decisive at times.

    It’s hard when drunk and high for g the lesser to get that small mean mind to work.

  14. MadDog says:

    Totally OT and apropos of nothing important at all, Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple.

    This must mean the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have saddled up and are ready to ride. /s

  15. rugger9 says:

    Take anything Darth says with a grain of salt, he lies, a lot, and anything is fair game in order to further his agenda under PNAC. So while many people will get their exercise in book-flinging, remember it’s a sadist on the level of Ted Bundy who “wrote” it [more likely than Sarah, but without the f-bombs we can’t be sure it’s Darth].

    So, why would this come out now? Timing is extremely relevant, is Darth finally going away, for good? Or is this pre-election distraction material, or why would Cheney risk admitting anything that would be war crimes? While his hubris is unquestioned and unbounded, he is after all smart enough to know that there are prosecutors and activists out there only too happy to file cases overseas about war crimes. Note also that the Rupert Murdoch’s troubles (if not probable demise) means that the media empire will have a harder time defending Darth than usual. So, why the risk? Since when does Darth do anything without a purpose? Once again, we need to dig…

  16. Bob Schacht says:

    “Timing is extremely relevant, is Darth finally going away, for good?”

    That’s the right question. I can think of several reasons:
    * He is about to die, or become mentally incompetent.
    * He is losing influence in Washington, and there is no reason NOT to publish
    * His remaining followers need something to rally around

    When the book comes out, one thing to look for is how his daughter, Lynne, is presented. I’ll bet his remaining mission in life is to position her for maximum possible advantage after he dies.

    Bob in AZ

  17. MadDog says:

    @Bob Schacht: I think you meant Liz(ard). Lynne is PapaDick’s wife (though I suppose that doesn’t negate the possibility that she’s also his daughter).

  18. rugger9 says:

    Lynne’s the reason for the five deferments, and Liz (if I have my sequence right) is why Darth avoided Vietnam once married guys were liable but fathers weren’t for the draft.

    I’m not aware of any wankitude involving Lynne (as opposed to Liz and Darth whose sins are legion), but perhaps it’s been overshadowed by Darth and the spawn. Mary seems to be normal, however. Anyone have details?

  19. MadDog says:

    @rugger9: I doubt one could call anyone in that family “normal”.

    Not even public eye shy Mary. In the rare instances where she has appeared in the limelight, she’s espoused the same rightwing crazy stuff as the rest of the family.

  20. The Leveller says:

    Sorry here, but the resignation letter is old news. Cheney admitted to it some time ago when he began building interest in his forthcoming book. I agree it has to be accepted to be real. So, no story here. Too bad he never handed it to Bush.

  21. SaltinWound says:

    Cheney has played with titles before. Is there any interpretation in which the Cheney staffer could be Mary, who worked on his campaigns or Lynne, who was 2nd Lady? Liz is out, since she was at State, unless she had dual reporting like Libby.

  22. emptywheel says:

    You know, here’s what I think this was about, in part.

    Presidential succession.

    I can imagine scenarios in the last 2 years of the Admin where Cheney thought he might be alive but unable to perform in such a way it would mean Pelosi would be the successor to the President. (Such as if Fitz had indicted and convicted him.)

    So what he was make sure that the only way Pelosi would have assumed the Presidency is if they both died at once.

    Or something like that. Totally seems like something Cheney woudl do.

  23. SaltinWound says:

    How would the timing work? Resigning would not be enough. There would have to be a new VP in place.

  24. SaltinWound says:

    All right, I looked it up. A new VP has to be confirmed by both Houses of Congress, so Pelosi would have been holding some cards.

  25. MadDog says:


    “…I can imagine scenarios in the last 2 years of the Admin where Cheney thought he might be alive but unable to perform in such a way it would mean Pelosi would be the successor to the President. (Such as if Fitz had indicted and convicted him.)…”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m understanding you here, if Cheney was indicted and convicted, that would bring the 25th Amendment into play.

    And just like the VP vacancy when Agnew resigned under a criminal cloud, the President gets to nominate a VP replacement to be approved by a majority of both houses of Congress.

    Or were you suggesting the indictment and conviction of Bush while Cheney was incapacitated?

    I don’t know how that would work since there appears to be no amendment, statute, or law dealing with the incapacitation of the VP.

    In that particular scenario, I fail to see how Cheney’s resignation letter would pass muster given that he’d obviously be in no position to provide testimony to his purported resignation decision.

    And assuming that somehow a resignation letter from an incapacitated Cheney was accepted, the 25th Amendment for his replacement would again kick in.

  26. Gitcheegumee says:


    Lynne Cheney is quite a prolific author in her own right. And upon first reading this thread,my first thought is that Lynne may have ghost written her husband’s book.

    Here are a couple of sites that have additional info.The novel “Sisters” has some controversy attached to it,btw.

    Lynne Cheney | Official Publisher Pageauthors.simonandschuster.com/Lynne-Cheney/4198 – CachedSimilar
    Visit the official publisher page for Lynne Cheney. Get author updates, watch video and learn more about Lynne Cheney at Simon & Schuster.

    Sisters (Lynne Cheney novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters_(Lynne_Cheney_novel) – CachedSimilar
    Author(s), Lynne Cheney. Country, United States. Language, English … Sisters is a 1981 novel by Lynne Cheney published only in a Signet Canadian paperback …

    NOTE: Does anyone know who is the publisher for Monsieur Cheney’s “oeuvre”?

  27. Gitcheegumee says:

    Cheney Gears Up Publicity Tour for Memoir


    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will emerge from private life next week for a publicity blitz surrounding his 576-page memoir, “In My Time,” and there are few major media outlets in print, radio and television that he will overlook.

    Mr. Cheney chose a publisher that is known for its specialty in conservative nonfiction. Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, has previously published books by Glenn Beck, Karl Rove and Jerome R. Corsi.

    The book deal, brokered by the Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, was announced in 2009. A person familiar with the negotiations said at the time that Mr. Cheney would receive about $2 million for the book. His eldest daughter, Liz Cheney, assisted with the book.

  28. Gitcheegumee says:


    Cheney Gears Up Publicity Tour for Memoir

    New York Times (blog) – 5 hours ago
    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will emerge from private life next week for a publicity blitz surrounding his 576-page memoir, “In My Time,” and there are …

  29. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: I think Cheney was up to his old tricks of making “law” by Unitary Executive fiat.

    Given that there is no amendment, statute, or law dealing with the incapacitation of the VP, Cheney figured he could game the system by providing a letter of resignation to take effect in the event of his incapacitation.

    I also think that Cheney figured that the typically cowed Congress and a stacked deck Supreme Court would not intervene to rule on the validity of mysterious pre-packaged letter of resignation delivered second-hand from an incapacited VP.

  30. MadDog says:

    @Gitcheegumee: From CNN:

    “…Former Cheney aide and current CNN contributor Mary Matalin serves as editor-in-chief of Threshold.”

    The wingnut publishing arm of Simon & Schuster.

  31. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: My “incapacited” should have been “incapacitated”.

    Depending on my own grey matter for spellchecking is like driving with your eyes closed. *g*

  32. Kim Hanson says:

    I believe that the President would have had to formally accept such a letter for the resignation to actually have taken place. Actually I am not at all sure that it is the President alone that a VP would be required to notify of resignation. He would be replaced by a nominee of the President who most then be confirmed by both houses of Congress.

    I suspect that for a resignation to become official the President must forward that resignation to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

  33. MadDog says:

    More Cheney crazies via Charlie Savage of the NYT:

    Cheney Says He Urged Bush to Bomb Syria in ’07

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in a new memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site in June 2007. But, he wrote, Mr. Bush opted for a diplomatic approach after other advisers — still stinging over “the bad intelligence we had received about Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” — expressed misgivings.

    “I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Mr. Cheney wrote about a meeting on the issue. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”

    Mr. Bush chose to try diplomatic pressure to force the Syrians to abandon the secret program, but the Israelis bombed the site in September 2007…”

  34. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And more new details:

    “…And in the epilogue, Mr. Cheney writes that after undergoing heart surgery in 2010, he was unconscious for weeks. During that period, he wrote, he had a prolonged, vivid dream that he was living in an Italian villa, pacing the stone paths to get coffee and newspapers.”

    An Italian villa? Not bloody likely! An Italian prison if he stepped foot in Italy.

  35. joberly says:

    @joberly: and also @ MadDog # 46. The *NYT* piece says that the resignation letter was dated March 28, 2001, just nine weeks after taking office. That lines up with Big Time’s angioplasty. And it is true that the 25th Amendment does not address the possibility that the vice president is alive, but incapacitated.

  36. matthew carmody says:

    @emptywheel: I always believed that Cheney’s choice as VP should have been challenged by the Democrats because just before the election he changed his residence from Texas to Wyoming. Although he has a history in Wyoming, he was residing and there’s a constitutional prohibition against president and vice president coming from the same state.

  37. Gitcheegumee says:


    So,evidently Lynne and Dick share both the same publisher,and the same attorney as per the Wiki on Lynne’s book,Sisters:

    Sisters is a 1981 novel by Lynne Cheney published only in a Signet Canadian paperback edition as part of the New American Library (ISBN 0-451-11204-0). Sisters is a historical novel set in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1886. The book is now out of print. Existing copies have been put up for sale on eBay, amazon.com, and various other Internet sites for prices ranging, at this writing (September 26, 2009), from $49.96 to $295.00 unsigned,[3][4][5][6] and $1,500 for a copy autographed by Cheney.[7]

    In 2004, New American Library announced that it planned to republish the book. However, after being contacted by Lynne Cheney’s attorney, Robert Barnett, who reportedly told them that Cheney did not consider the book her “best work,” New American Library announced in April 2004 that it would not be republishing the book after all.[8] Wiki

    NOTE: The controversy regarding this book,according to Wiki, involves the sexuality of the two women-among other things.

  38. matthew carmody says:

    @MadDog: Speaking of wingnut publishing houses, has anyone shelled out the money for Nullification published by Regnery? Something that was extant from 1816 to 1836 in South Carolina is raising its ugly little head again on the fringe right.

  39. prostratedragon says:

    Something about Dick Cheney has always reminded me of that curious figure of the early 20th century, Mrs. Florence Foster Jenkins. Mrs. Foster Jenkins had an iron determination to play a part on life’s stage for which the evidence suggested she was not transparently suited; in this, she is practically the image of the former VP. Except, you know, for the evil part. And yet …

    Consider the tenacity, the sheer cussedness required for her to keep her dream of musical stardom alive, even as parents expired from the exhaustion of maintaining her ambition in nelson grips and husband fled in surrender, before finding at last her Rumsfeldian enabler in the person of St. Clair Bayfield.*

    Consider, too, the promethean imposition of the will upon reality revealed in the pose of the matronly odalisque in the portrait accompanying the article —the wouldbe flirtatiousness of her sidelong glance, honed to razor-sharpness so as to extirpate the barest forming thought that Laboradors, too, do fetch (click on the magnifier, you must). Surely here is the seed of something akin to the Cheneyesque insistence that mere mediocrity of thought and crudeness of motivation ought pose no obstacle to a grab for totalizing power of one of history’s most capable states.

    In paying tribute to Cheney through the vehicle of Florence Foster Jenkins, one might try, say, Howlin’ Wolf singing Willie Dixon’s “Hidden Charms,” or perhaps Gotan Project’s “Tu Misterio,” which sounds much like a Nuevo Tango reply to the Dixon. But then, some people think that some things end when people like Mrs. Foster Jenkins sing. So with that slender justification, and because maybe someone was wondering,

    Florence Foster Jenkins —Bell Song from Lakmé

    * And consider the issues that enabler must have had; one might think of Mrs. Foster Jenkins’s career as Bayfield’s Revenge. We note here that he is indeed that same Bayfield in whose name Actors’ Equity gives an annual award for non-featured Shakespeare player. I think I’ve stumbled on a cache of source material for some form of All About Eve. Mrs. Foster Jenkins was from Wilkes Barre.

  40. Badtux says:

    It is a little-known fact that ever since 1868, when Secretary of War Edwin Stanton locked himself in his office at the War Department and refused to leave upon being fired by President Andrew Johnson and continued to run the War Department as if he hadn’t been fired, every President has required that his cabinet submit a pre-signed resignation letter that the President can “accept” at any time. The resignation is not valid until such time as the President accepts the resignation.

    Granted, this is the first time I ever heard of the practice in conjunction with the Vice Presidency — I mean, the Vice President has no real Constitutional duties, so WTF? — but it’s really *not* that out-of-the-norm for Washington. Pretty much every political appointee submits his signed resignation letter at the same time he submits his job application. Nobody wants another Stanton situation. Nobody.

    – Badtux the History Penguin

  41. emptywheel says:

    @rosalind: Good point.

    But he was probably counting on OBL still being on the loose. Obama has earned the right to lead the 9/11 commemoration, for better or worse.

  42. Citizen92 says:

    Any chance Cheney’s resignation letter (undoubtedly an official document on government letterhead) ever made it into NARA’s archives per the Presidential Records Act? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    A little more fodder:
    – When Cheney expires there will undoubtedly be NO records in his FBI file. None.
    – I wonder if Cheney will explain his petty vindictiveness for blackballing his White House secretary who worked for him while chief of staff for Ford. Keep in mind, secretaries back then were not young staffers, they were admin professionals. Cheney carried that grudge all the way to the Reagan Administration and told Jim Baker (Reagan’s COS) to make sure she did not get a job in the Administration.

  43. Mary says:

    @39 – oh lord, I hope not. The world can’t handle the Cheney on Addington sex scenes she’d put in there.

  44. rugger9 says:

    @matthew carmody:
    The prohibition is for the electors from Texas voting for the GOP ticket, at least one of the ticket must be from a state other than their own. Which would have doomed W’s “election” if Cheney was officially from Texas as well. The requirements for state residency aren’t specified in the Constitution, it was considered a job that Wyoming (or TX) would handle. Cheney was a WY congressthing back in the day, so his residency there isn’t as far fetched as W’s in TX.

    A note on the 2000 election as well, if it had gone into the House as the Constitution calls for in a dispute [with precedent from the Tilden election], each state delegation has one vote, and I’m pretty certain that W would have prevailed by the number of flyover states in his column.

  45. Kathleen says:

    “In addition to signing the letter in case his heart gave out and turned him into a vegetable, Cheney also kept it in case he suddenly got into very big legal trouble.”

    Vegetables refuse to associate with Cheney.

    Not a vegetable and not in “big legal trouble”

    The people of Egypt had Mubarak in a cage. In the US Iraq war criminals write books go on tour and on MSM outlets. A few (Douglas Feith, William Luti) head Rick Perry’s foreign policy team

    Many Americans want to believe in accountability and justice for serious crimes committed by our leaders. They are told by the Obama administration etc to “move on, turn the page, next chapter, don’t be about retribution, witch hunts, vengeance”

  46. Kathleen says:

    Oh yeah. Colin Powell takes Cheney down
    link to huffingtonpost.com

    Cheney about the release of his book “going to cause heads around DC to explode”

    Nope but Cheney’s lies sure did cause Iraqi people’s bodies, heads etc to explode. As well as 4500 American soldiers bodies to explode. And tens of thousands of American soldiers who have been injured. Had their bodies explode because of Cheney, Bush, Feith’s, Wolfowitz, Rice’s lies

    Dead bodies in Iraq “explode”
    link to huffingtonpost.com
    F—ing creeps

  47. Kathleen says:

    This one has the best links. no need to put the others up

    “There are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington,” Cheney told NBC’s Jamie Gangel in an exclusive interview that will air on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10

    Heads and bodies did explode because of Cheney’s and the rest of the warmongers lies

    Powell cuts Cheney off at his knees

  48. Palli says:

    Wouldn’t there have to be a dat on this letter…does the book say what it was? Don’t buy the book to find out thogh…these publishers have got to start losing big on these right wing tell nothing books and movies.

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