Behind the plan, the VP who's everywhere
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Cheney "knows everything that goes on on a day-to-day basis in the White House," says one administration official. "He is involved in just about everything the White House is involved in."Skip to next paragraph
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All the presidents' men
Of course, Bush isn't the only president to rely heavily on a particular individual. Ronald Reagan leaned on Chief of Staff Jim Baker, while Franklin Roosevelt's close friend and adviser Harry Hopkins helped him carry out the New Deal.
"All presidents are needy," says Charles Jones, a presidential expert at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who sees Cheney's power as a positive sign that Bush recognizes his own areas of weakness. "Bill Clinton was very needy, and ... he did not have the help at the beginning that he needed."
Mr. Jones agrees, however, that it's highly unusual for the vice president to be the one with so much influence, and he attributes this in part to Cheney's lack of political ambition.
Most vice presidents are chosen for electoral reasons - to pick up votes in a certain region, or to squash a potential inter-party rivalry. They have presidential ambitions of their own, and once in office, are often kept at arms' length by their bosses.
"The difference in the relationship between President Bush and Vice President Cheney ... is that Dick Cheney does not want to be president," says Mr. Card. "He's ready to be president, but he doesn't want to be."
The other difference is Cheney's resume. From serving as chief of staff in the Ford White House to his tour as Defense secretary during the Gulf War, he brings a rare level of experience to the job.
His style fits well with this White House, too. Humility and loyalty are watchwords for Bush, and the subdued Cheney personifies both. Although he's been unusually visible in recent weeks, touting the energy plan, he doesn't enjoy media appearances.
"The press does not play a big role in his life," says his press secretary Juleanna Glover Weiss. "He's purely process right now. If there's a way [for the media] to help the administration, he's more than happy. But if it's about himself, he's not interested."
An ardent flyfisher, he carries that stillness to meetings, whether on the Hill or at the White House. He doesn't say much, and usually doesn't speak up in the presence of his boss unless asked to.
Ties to Big Oil
Cheney does have his critics. While Republicans on the Hill call him the 51st senator, and say talking to him is the same as talking to the president, Democrats complain their access to him has been limited. "I never see him," says Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington.
In particular, Democrats and environmentalists criticize Cheney for his handling of the energy plan, which they say favors the oil and coal industries. (The energy sector contributed $64 million in last year's election - three-quarters of it to the GOP.)
While Cheney is tight with the president now, the situation could change by 2004. Mr. Light suggests Cheney may choose not to run again with Bush. He might feel he's accomplished his mission, and health and other considerations may come into play. In any case, the relationship could change anyway, as Bush becomes more comfortable as president.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor