Bi­og­ra­phy links Cheney lead­er­ship style to early Hill work

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Kevin Vance

Many at­tributes of Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney’s lead­er­ship style are rooted in for­ma­tive po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences of the 1960s and 1970s, ex­plains Stephen F. Hayes, au­thor of a new bi­og­ra­phy, “Cheney: The Un­told Story of Amer­ica’s Most Pow­er­ful and Con­tro­ver­sial Vice Pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Cheney’s pref­er­ence for sub­stance over style, one of the traits that most ap­pealed to Ge­orge W. Bush in 2000 as the Texas gov­er­nor sought a run­ning mate, was ev­i­dent decades ago. He came to Wash­ing­ton in 1968 as a con­gres­sional fel­low of the Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Science As­so­ci­a­tion and be­gan his in­tern­ship with a young Repub­li­can from Wis­con­sin, Rep. Bill Steiger.

“Steiger be­gan from the first day giv­ing Cheney sub­stan­tial projects,” Mr. Hayes said. In fact, Mr. Steiger placed the young in­tern’s desk in his own per­sonal of­fice.

APSA fel­lows were ex­pected to change in­tern­ships at midyear, prefer­ably for a mem­ber of the op­po­site cham­ber and op­po­site po­lit­i­cal party. Mr. Cheney had a friend in Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy’s of­fice who agreed to do a “pa­per switch” so that each man could re­main in his pre­ferred of­fice. Mr. Cheney “would have been do­ing press work for Ted Kennedy [. . . ] the most un­likely job for the Dick Cheney we know now,” said Mr. Hayes, a se­nior writer for the Weekly Stan­dard.

Mr. Cheney chose the job that of­fered him real re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ac­cess to Mr. Steiger over “a more glam­orous po­si­tion in the of­fice of a sen­a­tor from Amer­ica’s most prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fam­ily.”

Mr. Cheney’s strong sup­port for lim­ited gov­ern­ment can be traced back to his first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon’s wage and price con­trols in the early 1970s. Mr. Cheney worked un­der Don­ald Rums­feld at the Cost of Liv­ing Coun­cil to phase out the con­trols. When the CLC re­froze food prices in 1972, Mr. Cheney turned into a skep­tic.

“The idea that you could write de­tailed reg­u­la­tions that were go­ing to gov­ern all as­pects of an econ­omy as big as the U.S. econ­omy is loopy,” Mr. Cheney told Mr. Hayes in one of the exclusive in­ter­views that went into the book, adding that the ex­pe­ri­ence “moved me pretty rad­i­cally in the free-mar­ket di­rec­tion.”

His role as for­mer Pres­i­dent Ger­ald R. Ford’s chief of staff shaped Mr. Cheney’s per­spec­tive on the vice pres­i­dency. The con­ser­va­tive Mr. Cheney of­ten felt re­spon­si­ble for thwart­ing the will of Vice Pres­i­dent Nelson Rock­e­feller, a lib­eral Repub­li­can. In 1980, Mr. Cheney worked with the Rea­gan cam­paign on a pos­si­ble “co-pres­i­dency” ar­range­ment be­tween his for­mer boss and the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. Those dis­cus­sions taught him a “co­pres­i­dency” or power-shar­ing ar­range­ment is not prac­ti­cal. A vice pres­i­dent must serve the pres­i­dent and not have his own agenda.

Mr. Cheney took those lessons back to Wash­ing­ton in 2001 when he was sworn in as the na­tion’s 46th vice pres­i­dent. His loy­alty to Pres­i­dent Bush and pledge not to run for of­fice af­ter his cur­rent term have en­hanced Mr. Cheney’s power.

“The pres­i­dent feels to­tally con­fi­dent Cheney isn’t pur­su­ing a per­sonal agenda,” Mr. Hayes said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times. Mr. Bush’s trust, com­bined with Mr. Cheney’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a Cabi­net sec­re­tary, a White House chief of staff and a decade as a Wy­oming con­gress­man, have made Mr. Cheney an ef­fec­tive and in­flu­en­tial vice pres­i­dent.

“It’s hard to imag­ine com­ing to the job with more hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence than Cheney had,” Mr. Hayes said. “He has a tremen­dous grasp of the is­sues and the way the White House works.”

Mr. Hayes said the vice pres­i­dent’s low profile in the me­dia has strength­ened his re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Bush. “Keep­ing his ad­vice [to the pres­i­dent] to him­self” has kept Mr. Cheney from pur­su­ing an agenda in­de­pen­dent of Mr. Bush’s agenda. Cabi­net mem­bers and other of­fi­cials un­der­stand that Mr. Cheney speaks for the pres­i­dent.

When Mr. Cheney served Mr. Ford in the 1970s, the leg­isla­tive branch was en­joy­ing an up­surge in power rel­a­tive to the ex­ec­u­tive. Ever since that time, de­pend­ing on one’s per­spec­tive, Mr. Cheney has fo­cused on “ex­pand­ing ex­ec­u­tive power” or “sought to re­store a bal­ance” be­tween the two branches, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Hayes.

In 1980, just af­ter Mr. Cheney joined the Repub­li­can House lead­er­ship, the con­gress­man ar­gued the mer­its of a stronger ex­ec­u­tive with then-fresh­man Rep. Newt Gin­grich, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can, who fa­vored a more pow­er­ful Congress, at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute.

“A fun­da­men­tal prob­lem has been the ex­tent to which we have re­strained pres­i­den­tial author­ity over the last sev­eral years,” said Mr. Cheney at the 1980 event. “We must re­store some bal­ance be­tween the Congress, on the one hand, and the ex­ec­u­tive branch, on the other.”

He brought his ideas about the need to re­assert ex­ec­u­tive power to the West Wing in 2001.

Even be­fore the Septem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, Mr. Cheney’s of­fice re­fused to pro­vide records of the En­ergy Task Force to Congress be­cause the vice pres­i­dent did not be­lieve the doc­u­ments were legally sub­ject to con­gres­sional scru­tiny. If Mr. Cheney de­fended ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege when the coun­try was at peace, his views were only am­pli­fied once the na­tion went to war.

When ter­ror­ists at­tacked the United States, Mr. Cheney “was as pre­pared as some­one could pos­si­bly be for some­thing so hor­rific,” said Mr. Hayes.

Many of those who gath­ered in the White House bunker with Mr. Cheney that day re­mem­ber his stoic de­meanor. “He had a calm pres­ence, which had the ef­fect of calm­ing oth­ers,” said Mr. Hayes. The vice pres­i­dent had stud­ied con­ti­nu­ity of gov­ern­ment pro­ce­dures nu­mer­ous times and was well-pre­pared.

Since then, Mr. Cheney has fo­cused his en­er­gies on when and where the ter­ror­ists plan to strike next. “He has been a Septem­ber 12 vice pres­i­dent,” said Mr. Hayes.

The au­thor said Mr. Cheney’s big­gest weak­ness as vice pres­i­dent has been “his un­will­ing­ness to put him­self out, to speak to the me­dia on a more reg­u­lar ba­sis.”

“He sees his job as ad­vis­ing the pres­i­dent, pe­riod. Some be­lieve he could have been a more ef­fec­tive spokesman,” Mr. Hayes said.

He said Mr. Cheney does not seem to be both­ered by neg­a­tive me­dia cov­er­age and the late-night television jokes. In fact, Mr. Cheney some­times seems to em­brace his im­age as a be­hind-the-scenes guy, as cap­tured by a 2004 re­mark from the vice pres­i­dent quoted in Mr. Hayes’ book.

“Am I the evil ge­nius in the cor­ner that no­body ever sees come out of his hole?” Mr. Cheney asked. “It’s a nice way to op­er­ate, ac­tu­ally.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, seen here ad­dress­ing the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers break­fast in Wash­ing­ton in Fe­bru­ary, has been a fix­ture on the po­lit­i­cal scene for nearly four decades.

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