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Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DICK CHENEY'S DANGEROUS SON-IN-LAW....Dick Cheney, as we all know, is willing to go to almost any lengths to prosecute the war on terror. But there's one step that, for Cheney, is a bridge too far: regulation of the chemical industry, a network of absurdly vulnerable time bombs scattered across the country just waiting for the attention of an enterprising young al-Qaeda zealot.

For two years after 9/11 the point man for inaction on chemical plant security was the ultimate member of the clan of Cheney loyalists scattered throughout the Bush adminstration: his son-in-law, Philip Perry. The chemical industry loved him. But Perry left government service in 2003 to return to his lucrative private legal practice, and in 2005 New Jersey's governor decided to regulate his state's chemical plants himself.

This was a problem: the only way to stop New Jersey was for the federal government to preempt state law. But the only way for that to happen was for the federal government to actually pass a law. Re-enter Philip Perry, who went looking for a solution:

He would find it in a DHS appropriations bill in the Senate, to which had been attached an obscure amendment giving the DHS short-term regulatory authority over chemical security. Perry reworked the language and helped to get it added to the spending bill in a conference committee. Under the new amendment, the DHS would have nominal authority to regulate the chemical industry but also have its hands tied where required. For example, the DHS would be barred from requiring any specific security measures, and citizens would be prohibited from suing to enforce the law.

Best of all for industry, while the bill didn't mention giving the DHS preemption authority, it didn't bar it, either, leaving a modicum of wiggle room on the subject. In other words, if Perry was sufficiently brazen, he could claim for the DHS the power to nullify the chemical regulations in New Jersey.

He was sufficiently brazen.

Read the whole thing. The story is from Art Levine, and it's called "Dick Cheney's Dangerous Son-in-Law."

Kevin Drum 1:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

We really have to rename the "department of defense." Since "Defense" failed in defending the country, we have a "department of homeland security" to do it now.

Which it does auite horribly, as the story you link to notes.

But "Defense" lives on.

Bad naming will lead to bad outcomes, I believe.

Posted by: blatherskite on February 16, 2007 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

I know I shouldn't be, but when I read things like this, I'm amazed at just how utterly venal the current administration is.

Posted by: phleabo on February 16, 2007 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, there's a typo in your first sentence. It should read, "Dick Cheney, as we all know, is willing to go to almost any lengths to advance the Project for a New American Century's plans for global domination."

Yours in insomnia,

Posted by: ChristianPinko on February 16, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Be quiet, Fake Al.

Posted by: phleabo on February 16, 2007 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

...just because a few bad apples have used them to commit crimes...

Those "few bad apples" are running the executive branch and evidently giving their cronies special protections and treatment at the cost and risk of the American people.

Words fail me, Kevin.

Repub corruption and cronyism knows no bounds.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 16, 2007 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

Levine:

When the DHS finally unveiled its proposed regulations in late December of last year, Hill staffers noticed that the department had effectively granted itself the power to set aside state laws...
Screw states' rights, eh? I suppose we can categorize "states' rights" as another empty Repub slogan from the party of Big Government.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 16, 2007 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

How can they make it so that citizens cannot "sue to enforce the law"?

Oh, that's right. Scalia.

Posted by: doesn't matter on February 16, 2007 at 7:49 AM | PERMALINK

"For example, the DHS would be barred from requiring any specific security measures..."

Tell me again why we need the Department of Fatherland Security?

Posted by: Ranger Jay on February 16, 2007 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney is a two-time convicted drunk driver - how many of your friends have two DUIs? He is married to a frigid, dykish woman who writes soft porn novels and has a daughter who is a war-loving lesbian.

This is a meesed up, dysfunctional family, much like the sick and demented Bush clan. Let's do them a favor and impeach them from office and get them all in group therapy!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 16, 2007 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Sure all of you libs, knock "Family Values" -

The Family that "preys" on America together, reaps big bucks.

And his lucrative private practice? - Well, he was first with Latham and Watkins as a tyro - left for the WH - came back as a partner - left again for a bigger position at the WH - Now, back to bigger lobbying fees at L&W.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 16, 2007 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

None dare call it terrorism....

Posted by: silent minority on February 16, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This story proves just how ineffectual the Republican congress was during the last 6 years. When tied to the US attorney story that involved leglislation allegedly never seen by any member prior to passage, one wonders if Republicans should ever be allowed near the levers of legislative power again.

I guess we are going to have months of these stories about language being quietly inserted into this bill or that as the Democrats muck about and try to drain the congressional swamp.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 16, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

For conservatives, profit and personal power trump national security every time.

Why is anyone surprised.

It is all about self, not country, with these folks.

Which is why they were so wrong about Iraq and why they cannot be trusted with any national policy - because all such issues are really partisan and personal policies for them.

They don't serve the country; the country is here to serve them.

Posted by: Google_This on February 16, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

This clown was the head of a 1,500 person legal staff at DHS - Probably needed that many to write all of the contracts that have rebuilt New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Geez, with everything being rebuilt to a new glory, they'll probably be drastically reduced in order to save our tax dollars.

Wish some of that money could have saved Stephenson's Apple Farm and Restaurant.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 16, 2007 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

This shows indirectly why we're at war in Iraq: to send money to industrialists.

They are hoors and gangsters. Every single one of them.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 16, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

google_this: For conservatives, profit and personal power trump national security every time.

to that point.....i saw this on another blog...and I am having trouble confirming it...

if true.....bush would agree with you...


here's the post:

Yesterday during a press conference in the White House, the President was asked by a reporter, "Mr. President, if Iran is a threat to peace in the Middle East, why are we selling them F-14 fighter jet parts?"

This was his reply, I swear to God: "You gotta understand that............uh, money trumps peace..... sometimes."

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

We need a Dangerous Democrat.

Can't we do something before the terrorists destroy our way of life, the ones in the WH, not the ones in Afganistan.

Can't we the people who have turned down the volume on Neocon Propoganda Radio do something? Strike? Or a Million Democrat march? Or something that does not affront the Democrat's method of peace but can still slow (if not stop) the destruction of the(how did that Republican put it) greatest governing body on earth?

Can't we doooooo anything?

Posted by: Zit on February 16, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Come on american hawk,ex lib,al and egbert I want to see what kind of lame nonsense you can come up with to defend this miscreant.

Posted by: Gandalf on February 16, 2007 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

The thing that confuses me is why does Industy so consistently oppose security measures. You would think that the owners would want to make their investments more secure. And surely the costs of improvements can't as high as the threat of losing the entire plant to a terrorist bomb. I know that business today is all about the money but sometimes it seems like their moronically stupid about the money.

Posted by: beb on February 16, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

vulnerable time bombs scattered across the country just waiting for the attention of an enterprising young al-Qaeda zealot.

I agree that chemical plants need security protections and that Cheney opposes laws mandating companies pay for the upgrades. My problem with the above referenced quote is that is sounds very much like a hysterical Southern Congressman's speech justifying the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The most likely candidate to blow up a chemical plant is the poor maintenance investment of the corporations that own them. Of all the chemical plant explosions that have occurred the past fifty years, none have been caused by anyone except the owners.

Posted by: Brojo on February 16, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney: still the Worst American Who Ever Lived.

Posted by: craigie on February 16, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

beb, there are two reasons industry has no interest in protecting facilities:
1) Take the money and run; let the next guy worry about tomorrow.
2) Get a US government bailout for any terrorist-inflicted damages (think airlines and $10B)

Posted by: thug on February 16, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Irony, here's the press conference excerpt wherein Bush says "money trumps peace":

Q A lot of our allies in Europe do a lot of business with Iran, so I wonder what your thoughts are about how you further tighten the financial pressure on Iran, in particular, if it also means economic pain for a lot of our allies?

THE PRESIDENT: It's an interesting question. One of the problems -- not specifically on this issue, just in general -- let's put it this way, money trumps peace, sometimes. In other words, commercial interests are very powerful interests throughout the world. And part of the issue in convincing people to put sanctions on a specific country is to convince them that it's in the world's interest that they forgo their own financial interest.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070214-2.html

Posted by: Librarian on February 16, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

...why they cannot be trusted with any national policy...Posted by: Google_This on February 16, 2007 at 9:34 AM

Yes, but only half of the country realizes this.

On the MSM news last night, the news anchor was advocating our need to address the Iranian nuclear threat. National news has begun pounding the war drum with few questions asked. I was so stunned I nearly dumped my spagetti.

If Dems can't halt the already in progress troop surge into the war we are already not winning, from where are they expecting to get the balls to stop an Iranian invasion.

Posted by: Zit on February 16, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

"And surely the costs of improvements can't as high as the threat of losing the entire plant to a terrorist bomb."

If you do a cost-benefit analysis, focusing solely on the financial interests of the company, it is likely that the companies are making the right choice. Security is expensive, particularly security that really works (as compared to figleaf measures that don't provide any real security).

Countering this is the fact that a terrorist attack on a chemical plant is an extremely rare occurrence. And if one did occur, it's not necessarily true that the attack would be really devastating. Add into this equation the fact that they almost certainly have some insurance coverage and the likelihood of a government bailout if such a devastating attack should occur.

Add to this the short-term mindset of far too many executive officers and stockholders, where short-term profit outweighs long-term considerations, and you have the recipe for adamantly opposing real security upgrades, not to mention any and all government intervention.

In short, expect the industry to fight tooth and nail to avoid having to do anything meaningful until and unless a real attack takes place.

Posted by: PaulB on February 16, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Republican behind-the-scense skullduggery knows no bounds.

Posted by: bert on February 16, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Time out.

There's something I've never understood about Democrats (or to be precise, Democrats in Washington). It's not news that Dick Cheney put his son-in-law on the public payroll, in a post requiring Senate confirmation no less. Likewise his daughter, at the State Department. His other daughter, the homosexual, received a seven-figure book advance that we are supposed to believe her father had nothing to do with. President Bush's own father will have a new aircraft carrier named after him, courtesy of a Navy anxious to curry favor with the sitting President. None of these were issues raised by Democrats when they happened. I'm not saying they shouldn't be issues now, but for heaven's sake what were you people waiting for?

I don't doubt that a party led by Kennedys, Clintons and the people who owe their political careers to Kennedys and Clintons would be a little....conflicted about Washington's pervasive culture of entitlement. The front runner for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, after all, is basically running on the idea that she deserves to be President because she is Bill Clinton's wife. But if I really thought that Bush and Cheney were unworthy, or even dangerous, and I were in the opposition I wouldn't wait until it was clear that, for example, Cheney's nepotistic impulses had done some tangible damage -- and after he had left government -- to raise all sorts of hell about his family's riding his coattails into government.

Now, Cheney is sensitive about his family. So is Bush. They both react badly to criticism with a personal tinge. All the more reason to hit them, hard, when they use their positions of public trust to benefit their relatives. That's just politics where I'm from. As I say, Democrats in Washington approach this subject differently, and I just don't understand their thinking at all.

Posted by: Zathras on February 16, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "Dick Cheney, as we all know, is willing to go to almost any lengths to prosecute the war on terror."

OK, right off the bat, you are regurgitating a scripted right-wing talking point, which renders the rest of your article bullshit as far as I'm concerned.

Dick Cheney has no interest in "prosecuting the war on terror". In fact, there is no "war on terror".

Dick Cheney is only interested in using the nonexistent "war on terror" as a pretext for corporate petro-imperialism abroad, and establishing a right-wing corporate dictatorship in the USA.

Therefore, the theme of your article -- that Cheney's son-in-law's nepotistic machinations to thwart regulations protecting chemical plants from terrorist attack is inconsistent with Cheney's willingness to "go to any lengths to prosecute the war on terror" -- has no validity. Cheney's son-in-law's actions are entirely consistent with Cheney's willingness to go to any lengths to enrich himself, his family, and his ultra-rich cronies and financial backers in America's corporate ruling class.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 16, 2007 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK


Thank you, Librarian....

"....money trumps peace, sometimes." President Bush 2/14/07

gotta have priorities...in the battle of civilizations...

too funny...

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

zathras: Dick Cheney put his son-in-law on the public payroll...his daughter, at the State Department....His other daughter, the homosexual, received a seven-figure book advance that we are supposed to believe her father had nothing to do with.....but for heaven's sake what were you people waiting for?


the liberal media?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Irony (nice name, by the way).

Did you, or did you not, completely mischaracterize the President's comment?

Posted by: Lucifer on February 16, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Using the talking points of hysterical Southern Repubican bigots and oil comapany men is a mistake many moderates and Democratic politicians make.

But is it a mistake?

Posted by: Brojo on February 16, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK


lucifer....thanks for the compliment...

as to the president's comment...

....do you ever get tired of being a victim?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Wish some of that money could have saved Stephenson's Apple Farm and Restaurant.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 16, 2007

It is truly sad but all good things must end.

I did think it was funny that 400 customers showed up on Valentines day to read the sign, "closed due to power failure." Yeh, right, they hadn't paid their electrical bill and had been cut off.

For those of you who don't live in Kansas City, for a long time Stephenson's was a very popular but wholesome restraunt in Independence, Missouri. Many, many thousands of young men took their prom dates to Stephenson's Apple Farm and Restaurant.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 16, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ho Hum! Just another day in the Empire/Gulag.

Posted by: R.L. on February 16, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

shoot

Posted by: repub on February 16, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

You didn't answer my question. Did you, or did you not mischaracterize the comment, or was the transcript provided by the other commenter inaccurate? I suppose I could ask the same question to the other commenter, but he/she provided a link, you did not.

So which is it? I admit, I have no clue which version is correct since I did not see the news conference, but I find it more likely that yours is not.

Posted by: Lucifer on February 16, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Ron Byers,

Yeah, that was meant for you and Global - One of Harry Truman's favorite spots - And many a family took their Mother there for Mother's Day.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 16, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency,

Some NASA types swear by their NASA diapers - Perhaps you should e-mail Houston.

Posted by: stupid git on February 16, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, bedwetter, the cruel libs are singling out widdle Dickie's fambly when all they are doing is destroyng the country. Can't we just let them fuck us up the ass in peace? At least they have widdle Dickies!

"This is a meesed up, dysfunctional family..."
Great typo, Deflator—makes me almost miss Ed Meese and Oliver North. Okay, not quite, but you know.

Posted by: Kenji on February 16, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo and SecularAnimist both already got to my point: this frame through which Democrats and "liberal" hawks choose to criticize the Administration often legitimates the Republican lies.

a network of absurdly vulnerable time bombs scattered across the country just waiting for the attention of an enterprising young al-Qaeda zealot.

I understand one motivation here is to display the hypocrisy, but another motivation seems always to be "attack them from a more hawkish position. And in so doing, you relinquish your right to call "bullshit" on the Administation's scare-mongering - because you're doing it too!

I also understand careerist journalistic motivations and what sells in a capitalist media, but what the "liberal" hawk media and Dem politicians do, with this "competence" line of critique, leads to more wars.

Next up, the serious-thinking, serious liberals kvetch about the failure of the Bush Admin to "deal" with the very weal thweat from Iwan!

Posted by: luci on February 16, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK


lucifer: I admit, I have no clue which version is correct since I did not see the news conference, but I find it more likely that yours is not.

do you know how to use a web link?

i followed the one provided by librarian and found the quote that they posted...

i did not mischaracterize that quote..

now..

you are right not to trust anything posted on white house web site....

welcome to the club...

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

also..

lucifer....

if you are asking about the quote in my first post in this thread...

i suggest you re-read that entire post...

it might save you further embarrasment...

Posted by: mr. irony on February 16, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

THE PRESIDENT: One of the problems -- not specifically on this issue, just in general -- let's put it this way, money trumps peace, sometimes. In other words, commercial interests are very powerful interests throughout the world. And part of the issue in convincing people to put sanctions on a specific country is to convince them that it's in the world's interest that they forgo their own financial interest.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070214-2.html
Posted by: Librarian

I don't think war profiteers and oilmen should be allowed to make statments like that without challenge.

Posted by: Nads on February 16, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Call a WAH-mbulance, FreqK, you sock-puppet loser.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on February 16, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

3rdPaul,
Thanks for the heads up on Stephenson's. I lived in KC for 10 years; my wife and I had a lot of good memories from there.

Ron Beyers/Global, I read that Stroud's on 85th closed, also. Bummer, we have been trying to plan a trip to go back there. Guess we'll just have to go to Pappi's pizza.

On topic, My, this administration acts so completely disinterested in a future terrorist attack, makes you wonder if they know something the rest of us don't? Remember the Dubai ports fiasco? They don't think there is any danger of another terrorist attack. At least while they are in charge.

TT

Posted by: TT on February 16, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Irony,

Save myself the embarrassment? Below, I post your version of the question and answer:

Yesterday during a press conference in the White House, the President was asked by a reporter, "Mr. President, if Iran is a threat to peace in the Middle East, why are we selling them F-14 fighter jet parts?"

This was his reply, I swear to God: "You gotta understand that............uh, money trumps peace..... sometimes."

The comment provided by Librarian mentions how our European allies are the ones dealing with Iran (I saw nothing about F-14 fighter jet parts being sold to Iran by the US). Your mischaracterization (if your original quote is inaccurate, which it appears to be) is that Bush was excusing our government's own commercial dealings with Iran.

So, I ask again, is your version accurate or is Librarian's? Or are you just too damned dishonest to admit that you misquoted the question, and thus mischaracterized Bush's response (by taking it out of the context in which he was replying).

Others are free to weigh in. I would be curious to find out how many intellectually honest people are comment here. This is a good test for it.

Posted by: Lucifer on February 17, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK


lucifer: Save myself the embarrassment?

from my oiriginal post on this thread...


to that point.....i saw this on another blog...and I am having trouble confirming it...

see...

comprehension not a strong point?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 17, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

lucifer....observing your lack of critical thinking i thought i might have to point out my very first post on this thread...

its at 9:53 am

it begins....

***i saw this on another blog...and I am having trouble confirming it...

if true....***

too late to save you your embarrasement..

but i did warn you...

now don't you feel foolish?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 17, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK


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