Cheney Fatigue Settles Over Some in GOP
Saturday, July 7, 2007; 12:49 PM
WASHINGTON -- Dick Cheney, who thrives on secrecy while pulling the levers of power, is getting caught in the glare of an unwelcome spotlight.
Once viewed as a sage and mentor to President Bush, Cheney has approval ratings now that are as low as _ or lower _ than the president's. Recent national polls have put them both in the high 20s.
Bush's decision to spare former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison sentence has focused new attention on the vice president and his possible role in the commutation.
Cheney's relentless advocacy of the Iraq war, his push to expand presidential authority and his hard-line rhetoric toward North Korea and Iran are raising concerns even among former loyalists now worried about the GOP's chances in 2008.
It seems Cheney fatigue is settling in some Republican circles.
Republican strategist Rich Galen, who worked for both Bush and Bush's father, said he is finding less interest or enthusiasm for Cheney. "Republicans have, in essence, moved on and focused on who to get behind in 2008," Galen said.
Cheney has drawn criticism and ridicule from Democrats for his close ties to Libby and for his contention _ later modified _ that his office is not "an entity within the executive branch."
Bush last week commuted Libby's sentence for his conviction of lying to investigators about his role in leaking the identity of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame. Plame's husband, retired diplomat Joseph Wilson, was a prominent critic of the administration's case for invading Iraq over weapons of mass destruction.
Bush said the sentence was excessive. The president kept the issue alive by saying he would not rule out an eventual full pardon for Libby.
Wilson said he would not be surprised if Cheney were "pulling the strings here, too" in sparing Libby prison time.
White House officials said they did not know exactly what role Cheney may have played in Bush's decision.
GOP strategist Mary Matalin, once Cheney's top political and public affairs assistant, suggested detractors are "score-settling or agenda-seeking."