Dick Cheney, Arlen Specter and another frank exchange

Cheney goes behind the chairman's back and won't talk to him over the tuna salad.

Published June 8, 2006 9:21PM (EDT)

As the New York Times reported this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has taken his pissing match with the White House a little more public than usual by releasing a letter of complaint he sent to Dick Cheney.

Specter's beef: As Specter was seeking to have telephone company executives testify about their role in the NSA's telephone database project, the vice president was working with other Republicans on Specter's committee to make sure no such hearing occurred. "I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point," Specter wrote to Cheney. "This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table."

For the record, the Times notes that Specter made several trips to the buffet for tuna salad, hard-boiled egg, salad dressing and fruit. On any of his trips, Specter says, Cheney could have pulled him aside and said he was doing an end-run on the chairman. He didn't, and now Specter is going to . . . going to . . . well, he's going to be really mad about it until he rolls over and gets back on board like he usually does.

As for Cheney? He says in a response to Specter that he talks to lots of senators and that there's nothing inappropriate about his doing so this time. Cheney says that the "respectful and candid exchange of views is something to be encouraged rather than avoided."

Somehow, it all reminds us of the time Cheney told Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself -- a conversation Cheney's spokesman described at the time as "a frank exchange of views."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Arlen Specter D-pa. Dick Cheney