Cheney: a Veep
like no other
by PAT MURPHY
remembering U.S. presidents in my lifetime, I don’t recall any vice
presidents being political forces. As No. 2 men, most were rarely seen,
heard even less.
escaped obscurity. Harry Truman became president. So did Richard Nixon,
Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George Bush the Elder.
became celebrities for the wrong reasons. Nixon’s holier-than-thou
first vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned after admitting he took
bribes and evaded income taxes earlier in Maryland government. Dan
Quayle provided reliable fodder for "Saturday Night Live"
sketches with convoluted metaphors and boyish naivete.
modern history has a vice president been seen and heard on major policy
as much as Bush the Junior’s veep, Dick Cheney, who functions as
shaping energy policy, he now emerges off and on from secure hiding
places to explain his boss’s threat to attack Iraq, trying to convince
Congress and the public that Bush’s plans are virtuous. So, it’s no
coincidence that Cheney’s safety in secret hiding places is regarded
as more important than the president’s.
was at it again Sunday for a full hour on "Meet The Press,"
speaking in the third person about what "the President" thinks
and why. Washington politicians and media seem to care more about what
Cheney thinks than what Bush says. I doubt "Meet the Press"
ever gave a full hour to another vice president.
new. In past crises, presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy,
Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder and Clinton were
out front in a variety of venues and settings talking frankly to the
public. Their vice presidents were attending state funerals or presiding
over the Senate.
for carefully orchestrated partisan political venues, President Bush the
Junior ducks and leaves the talking to Cheney.
compares his style to a corporate CEO who delegates. Most CEOs of any
note, however, don’t delegate vice presidents to explain major
life-or-death issues like this president.
grow that White House big thinking is handled by Cheney, aided by
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security adviser Rice, political
strategist Rove and Secretary of State Powell. Bush presumably accepts
whatever advice is given and allows aides to speak for him.
need compare Bush to his inner circle. The president repeats rehearsed
phrases from one appearance to the next on a narrow set of topics, but
stumbles on questions outside his script.
al, however, are eloquent, spontaneous, nimble in fielding complex
questions and steeped in the history of issues now confronting the
disputes that President Bush is woefully short on skills his chief aides
have in profusion. The danger of a president weak on skills required in
the Oval Office—and who’s so dependent on strong-willed advisers—is
that he’s apt to make decisions based on whoever gets closest to him
with the last word, rather than on thorough and scholarly evaluation of
reasonably argue that ultra-hawks who’re frantic to race into Baghdad
with guns blazing shaped Bush’s threat to attack Iraq without first
Professor Edward Haley, of Claremont McKenna College, commented on
National Public Radio:
strategy has been run backwards. It would make sense to identify the
Iraqi threat in a credible way, nurture support carefully at home and
abroad and end with an invasion. But the administration began by
announcing it would invade Iraq and now it's trying to find the reasons
and support to do it."