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Cheney on the move, in a lower-profile mode

By / November 9, 2008



Dick Cheney, one of the most consequential and controversial vice presidents in American history, finds himself with an even lower profile than usual, traveling with a small press corps and offering promises of a graceful transition to President Barack Obama.

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In one sign of how media attention now is relentlessly focused on the incoming administration, the Monitor was the only news organization traveling with the vice president on Saturday, when he flew on Air Force Two to Virginia Military Academy (VMI) to speak at the college’s Military Appreciation Day. (The Monitor is part of a pool of newspapers that travels in the Washington area with the president and vice president and files reports to other news organizations.)

When the vice president arrived in Lexington, Va. – some 190 miles from Washington – crews from local TV stations as well as a reporter and photographer from the Associated Press were on hand.

The day before the trip to VMI, Mr. Cheney's office had announced that upon the vice president's return to Andrews Air Force Base Saturday afternoon he would be going to a facility at the base for a medical exam. Earlier in his term, that alone might have triggered national media interest.

The trip also was also a notable example of how, while media attention may have shifted, the logistics of moving the second most powerful person in the US government remain formidable. Scores of Secret Service agents, armored limousines, helicopters, and squads of intersection-blocking local police were deployed during Cheney’s brief journey.

There were some lighthearted moments during the outing. The vice president’s brilliant, bearded chief of staff, David Addington, smiled and clapped along as the school fight song was played at the end of the formal ceremonies at the VMI parade grounds. Mr. Addington has played a key role in the heated debate over appropriate use of presidential power in fighting terrorism. US News & World Report called him “the most powerful man you've never heard of.”

The day’s events began as two green-and-white Marine helicopters arrived at Andrews Air Force Base under overcast skies shortly before 8 a.m. The vice president, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt, and red tie, exited his copter, posed briefly for pictures at the steps of Air Force Two, and boarded the Air Force C-32. The blue-and-white plane, with United States of America printed on the side, is similar to a Boeing 757.

Shortly before takeoff, Lea Anne Foster, assistant to the vice president for communications, came to the back of the plane where press seats are located to say that the vice president was “battling laryngitis.” During the flight, Cheney’s traveling physician could be seen going through several cases filled with medical supplies.

The sun had come out by the time Air Force Two touched down at Roanoke Regional Airport, after a 42-minute flight. A 10-vehicle motorcade – including the vice president’s armored limousine and an identical decoy limo – left the airport for a 54-minute drive through miles of rolling green Virginia farmland.

Roughly five miles from VMI, a woman stood by her van clapping and waving an American flag. At the campus entrance, a man held up a white sign saying, “Cheney and USA deserve a fair trial.” It wasn’t clear what that meant.

The motorcade arrived at the VMI campus at 9:50 and the vice president met with various college dignitaries. Founded in 1839, VMI was the first state-supported military college in the US.

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