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Time Mag: Bush had to lean on Cheney to get him to talk

Published: February 19, 2006

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President Bush had to lean on Vice President Cheney to get him to talk about his hunting accident, TIME Magazine's Nancy Gibbs and Mike Allen report in Monday editions. Excerpts from the registration-restricted story:


Bush and Cheney had a quiet talk. According to a Republican official, the President told Cheney how much he too loved Whittington. He acknowledged what a crushing experience it must have been to see Whittington fall after Cheney pulled the trigger on a bird, failing to see his friend nearby. After one of McClellan's press briefings, Cheney deadpanned, "He looks like he's having fun." Cheney knew what to do, being acquainted, as anyone in his position would be, with that most familiar and degrading of political rituals, the act of public penitence...



How do you make a powerful Vice President do something he doesn't want to do, however much the President needs it? From the earliest days of this Administration, the President has been comfortable having a Vice President who answers only to him and pretty much scares everyone else. When Cheney simply shut down after the accident, there was no one else in the White House with the nerve or clout to bring him back online. Cheney "has a very protective family, plus there is an unfortunate intimidation factor," says a former Administration official. "Very few staff—either in Cheneyworld or Bushworld—are comfortable raising issues in a straightforward manner or giving constructive advice."

Bush and Cheney are not as close as they were in their first term, TIME reports.

"But in recent months the internal dynamic has shifted. Through the first term, Cheney's dominion over foreign policy was unchallenged. And while he remains the Administration's voice on national security, the ascendance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the distraction of the cia-leak investigation and public doubts about the handling of the Iraq occupation mean the Vice President often finds himself advocating rather than orchestrating. An overstretched military narrows Administration options; Rice talks often about realistic approaches, and the Administration is more willing to acknowledge the utility of allies and even the U.N. than to pursue the more confrontational approach of Cheneyland... Cheney was the White House point man in trying to thwart Senator John McCain's effort to ban torture of detainees in U.S. custody anywhere in the world. Even after Bush yielded to McCain, Cheney's staff worked hard to try to narrow the restrictions in the legislation."

And there are worries about Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, who was recently indicted for variations on obstructing justice in the CIA leak investigation.

"The Libby trial may make Bush want to ensure some distance. Libby's motions could go on through this year; jury selection won't begin in the case until 2007. That guarantees the story will continue to crop up in the headlines, risking embarrassment for the Vice President. "The President doesn't like people screwing up," says a former Administration official. "Libby, even if he's found innocent, screwed up, and that's Cheney's problem because he's Cheney's guy." All these events have revived Washington's favorite parlor game—"Who'll replace Cheney?"—which has been played ever since he needed a cardiac procedure after two months in office, but no one who knows the President well thinks he would cut Cheney loose. His remaining in power, however, does not tell you how much power remains to him. More than one friend who was sure Cheney would serve out his term—"barring the intervention of the Almighty," as an aide said—inadvertently spoke of the Vice President in the past tense while describing Cheney's standing. "Cheney didn't win every battle," an official close to the Vice President said as he ruminated about the wide swath his hero had once cut. Enough people talking about him that way can only make it harder to win the next fight that comes along."

Read more at TIME.


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