The Whisperer in Chief: Cheney Thought Bush Went Soft In Second Term
An article in today’s Washington Post raises even more questions about the scope of the relationship between President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. It characterizes the post-White House vice president as being disappointed in Bush for going soft on him in the second term.
“He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming,” one Cheney aide told the newspaper. “It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”
The article – as well as a recent cover piece in Time Magazine – suggests the liberal talking point that Bush was simply a puppet for his vice president certainly waned in his last years in office. But of course, Cheney seems to be admitting as well that in Bush’s early days, the former defense secretary and White House chief of staff had a firm grip on the less experienced president’s decision making.
The questions of Cheney’s influence over the Bush White House will continue well after both the president and vice president publish their memoirs. But above all, Cheney has certainly forever changed how the nation will look at the vice presidency. The days of the number two serving only as a stand-in for funerals is long gone – it ended for good with Clinton and Gore in the 1990s. Voters look at vice presidential candidates as partners in crime, and having the potential to influence the chief executive in a way no other can.
Perhaps that is part of why Sarah Palin got so much scrutiny as a vice presidential candidate last year. It wasn’t just the prospect of Palin replacing John McCain if something were to happen to him. Part of the backlash against Palin was the disappointment of returning to the days where the vice president had no influence or power, when they were selected solely for the ability to win over electoral votes. Citizens could see McCain’s move was entirely political – and rejected it as opportunistic.
As the role of the vice president changes, maybe it is time to question how the vice presidential candidates are chosen. While voters spend a year weighing the presidential candidates in primaries and caucuses, the vice presidential candidates are chosen in secret, and with little weight given to their influence. They are like the side items written under the entrée on a menu. Unless you have a visceral reaction to the potatoes or rice, voters will likely choose the main course they like the best, no matter what it comes with.
But perhaps recent history has shown a more public vetting may be needed for the men and women who will be first – and often last – in line to have the president’s ear.
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