Like Henry Kissinger, it is easy to forget Dick Cheney is still alive until he makes a macabre appearance. But there he was, sitting in the front section of Justice Scalia’s memorial service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC last week.
Cheney and Scalia were hunting buddies. But their love of blood sports – Scalia even died on a hunting trip – also raised ethical questions over ten years ago after they went duck hunting at a private camp in southern Louisiana. The problem was the court had just agreed to hear the Veep’s appeal of lawsuits from the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch that charged that he and his staff violated an open-government measure in formulating their energy policy. Specifically, they were charged with violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act by allegedly meeting behind closed doors with outside lobbyists for the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries including Kenneth L. Lay of Enron. Who remembers Enron and Ken Lay?
Federal law rules that “any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned”, but Scalia disagreed. “Cheney was indeed among the party of about nine who hunted from the camp,” he admitted. “Social contacts with high-level executive officials (including cabinet officers) have never been thought improper for judges who may have before them cases in which those people are involved in their official capacity, as opposed to their personal capacity.”
The Bush administration regarded the case as a test of executive power and claimed that forcing disclosure of confidential records such as private meetings intruded on a president’s power to obtain advice. Without privacy, discussions on prickly matters could be difficult said the White House. The court ended up throwing the case back to a lower court without addressing the White House’s executive power question.
Though many claimed Cheney could not have a heart attack, because he had no heart, he suffered several heart attacks over his life. After repeated attacks, a bypass and a pump, Cheney got a heart transplant in 2012.
“Two years ago this time I was on a respirator, heavily sedated. Just had a pump… installed on my heart because my heart had gotten so weak after six heart attacks and 30-some years of heart disease that it was, you know, it was at the end,” he said after the transplant. “There’s not been a single glitch, no sign of rejection, everything’s just gone perfectly.”
Cheney neither knows whose heart saved his live or thinks about it much. “I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person,” he said. “The way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart.”
Nor did Cheney’s new heart give him new reverence for life. Soon after his transplant, the Denver Post reported the Veep planned to return to blood sports and participate in Wyoming’s One Shot Antelope Hunt. The event is a duel between Wyoming and Colorado and “the team that kills the most antelope in the shortest time wins,” says the Associated Press. There was no mention if Scalia would be joining Cheney in the killing derby.
This article originally appeared as: ‘The Scalia-Cheney axis of evil’.