Today’s Washington Post started a multi-part story on the Cheney Vice Presidency. While we have all heard the stories (and the late night jokes) about the real influence of Cheney on the Bush Presidency today’s installment really details the ways in which Cheney has managed to extend his reach into areas previously untouched by Vice Presidents. I do not count myself as a fan but Cheney is a fierce bureaucratic infighter. In talking about an episode in which Cheney did an end run around Colin Powell and Condi Rice over the treatment of enemy combatants the Post quotes Colin Powell upon the CNN announcement of the new Administation policy-
“What the hell just happened?” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.
Just one of many times Cheney has managed to prevail, and without leaving his fingerprints behind.
The episode was a defining moment in Cheney’s tenure as the 46th vice president of the United States, a post the Constitution left all but devoid of formal authority. “Angler,” as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of power obliquely, skirting orderly lines of debate he once enforced as chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford. He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain. He has empowered aides to fight above their rank, taking on roles reserved in other times for a White House counsel or national security adviser. And he has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did not assert.
Cheney’s political stock is deservedly low, and I find it amusing that many who call for open and transparent government at the local and state levels become apologists for Cheney’s hyper-secret way of conducting government at the national level. The Post story even indicates that Cheney has ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. (Can that be true?) A story worth reading, and at least for today a good job by the Post! Read the series at this link.