Andrew Sullivan wrote an excellent piece on Cheney's assertion of the "unitary executive," the idea that, in extreme circumstances (which are defined by the executive branch), the executive branch needs to be given virtually unlimited power. This idea led directly to all numbers of heinous acts, in particular the repeated torture of bad guys who had no more to give. You should read the whole thing, but here are a couple of quotes:
It ended, as all regimes bent on total power always end, with torture. Why? Because reality may differ from ideology; and when it does, it is vital to create reality to support ideology. And so torture creates reality by coercing "facts" from broken bodies and minds.And:
This is how torture is always a fantastic temptation for those in power: it provides a way for them to coerce reality into the shape they desire. This is also why it is so uniquely dangerous. Because it creates a closed circle of untruth, which is then used to justify more torture, which generates more "truth."
Since the war had no geographical boundaries, since an enemy combatant could be an American citizen or resident, since the enemy could never surrender, and since the war could never end, the dictatorial powers, allied with the power to torture, destroyed the balance of the American constitution. Until this is fully accounted for and the law-breakers brought to justice, that constitution remains with a massive breach below its waterline.[Note: I changed Sullivan's title, which was "What Cheney Did To Conservatism." I grow weary of Sullivan's attempts to distinguish his brand of conservatism from real conservatism; more importantly, the Bush-Cheney regime has damaged the moral standing and authority of this nation, not just a political philosophy.]