When a federal court in Washington last month gave the White House two weeks to turn over Dick Cheney's visitor logs to the Washington Post or explain why it shouldn't have to, we assumed that the Bush administration would buy time by choosing the second option.
We misunderestimated the vice president.
As Josh Gerstein reported Wednesday in the New York Sun, the Justice Department chose instead to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to stay the lower court's order so that the parties could have more time to argue the issue. Justice Department lawyers insisted that their request wasn't driven by any concern about releasing Cheney's logs just before next week's election. "The timing of congressional elections should not drive (or be seen to drive) the timing of FOIA litigation, especially litigation raising sensitive issues concerning the vice president and separation of powers," they said.
"Sensitive" is one way to describe the concerns lawyers have raised on Cheney's behalf. "Paranoid" might be another. "Disclosure of the records at issue could reveal an ever-expanding mosaic that would allow observers to chart the course of vice presidential contacts and deliberations in unprecedented fashion," the Justice Department said in a brief filed with the Court of Appeals earlier this week. "Such an unwarranted intrusion into the most sensitive deliberations of the vice presidency cannot be countenanced."
The Court of Appeals hasn't ruled on the merits of that argument, but it did issue the stay Cheney wanted late Wednesday afternoon. The result: Americans will learn about a verdict and a sentence for Saddam Hussein before Election Day, but they still won't know who has been meeting with their own vice president.