By Al Kamen
Friday, October 5, 2007
Seems famously secretive Vice President Cheney has been, for most of his tenure, at an undisclosed location, even if he's really just at his office, his residence, Camp David, his house in St. Michaels or the Paul Nelson hunting club in South Dakota.
His daily schedule most often says "no public events are scheduled." From May through September, for example, the Federal News Service Daybook listed about a dozen notices of his whereabouts. For August, the Reuters Daybook had him simply in Wyoming but noted that he would be at the dedication of the "Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at Grand Teton National Park."
Cheney declares he's in neither the executive nor the legislative branch of government -- therefore not subject to instructions from the archivist to preserve documents -- and makes sure there's no paper trail. "I learned early on that if you don't want your memos to get you in trouble someday, just don't write any," he said three weeks ago at the Ford presidential library in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Unlike arrangements for a press pool to always be with President Bush, Cheney only sometimes takes a pool with him when he travels. Since he often goes to closed events, there's not exactly a scramble for seats, and he occasionally might invite a press favorite to hop on board Air Force 2 for a little chat.
His office is pleasantly contemptuous of the media, hewing to the White House mantra when reporters call: "When we have something to announce, we'll announce it."
When he shot an acquaintance in a hunting accident last year, no one seemed to know that he was even down in Texas, and the shooting was kept under wraps for a day.
On the other hand, it could be that Cheney, save for hunting, fishing and fundraising, is pretty much a homebody, just going to his office every day, making sure that he attends the daily intelligence briefings he receives before Bush's, sometimes asking the briefer to make sure Bush hears this or that portion.
And it's not as if he isn't seen out and about in Washington. Wednesday night, for example, he was at a book-signing party for Justice Clarence Thomas at conservative radio talker Armstrong Williams's house on the Hill.
And last week he was at the Borders bookstore at 18th and L streets NW, buying a copy of the Washingtonian and a couple of books -- the late David Halberstam's book on the Korean War and the companion book to the Ken Burns PBS series on World War II, the Associated Press reported. He waited in line to pay.
When he takes off on his hunting trips and others, word sometimes gets out, albeit slowly, because folks out there spot the entourage or see the large jet at their small airport.
Loop Fans can help speed this up. Should you see the vice president in your town, anywhere in this country or even overseas, or if you spot a plane that looks like his, simply drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.Snapshots, Yes; Testimony, No
In contrast to the vice president, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been much more accessible to the media both here and abroad. And the buzz is she's even going to take a photographer from State's public affairs shop along next week on her trip to Moscow and the Middle East.
"She wants to start documenting stuff," we were told by a source. Hauling around your own photographer may be unprecedented -- though she used to have an aide who was handy with a camera to record trips.
Still, that policy hardly means it's open house at the department.
For example, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has been sparring with Rice for weeks over her insistence that department officials cannot testify in public about U.S. efforts to curb corruption in Iraqi ministries. The department has insisted that any information about corruption in the Iraqi government be kept classified so it doesn't undermine Washington-Baghdad relations.
The negative stuff that must be secret, the department told Waxman, includes "allegations that investigations were thwarted/stifled for political reasons" as well as "allegations concerning actions by specific individuals, such as [Maliki] or other [Iraqi] officials, or regarding investigations of such officials."
Waxman was angry, calling the department's position "absurd."
But you know, as Mom always said, "If you can't say something nice about someone . . ."The C Student, in Charge and Loving It
The Bush-bashers can say what they like, but the president is still enjoying himself immensely. And he's still got that line he uses all the time to show how he revels in the notion that, despite his lackluster academic record, challenges with English and limited accomplishments before politics, he is -- yes, he is and you, smart guy, are not -- Leader of the Free World and The Decider. And there's no hint whatsoever of any chip on his shoulder when he says it.
"I delegate to good people," he said in a 76-minute appearance Wednesday at the Lancaster, Pa., Chamber of Commerce. "I always tell Condi Rice, 'I want to remind you, Madam Secretary, who has the PhD and who was the C student. And I want to remind you who the adviser is and who the president is.' " And she doubtless appreciates the insight.
"I got a lot of PhD types and smart people around me who come into the Oval Office and say, 'Mr. President, here's what's on my mind.' And I listen carefully to their advice," he said, according to a White House transcript.
"But having gathered the device [sic], I decide, you know, I say, 'This is what we're going to do.' And it's 'Yes, sir, Mr. President.' And then we get after it, implement policy.
"It's a joy to be your president. It's not only an honor, it's a joy, because I truly believe the decisions I am making will yield the peace we want and the prosperity that we all desire."Goodbye, GWOT
Seems the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Michael Mullen, has banned the use of the phrase "Global War on Terror" (GWOT) and has prohibited using it "in any future correspondence," according to a Sept. 27 e-mail from a Mullen aide.
Hmmm . . . Mullen probably doesn't remember that this issue came up two years ago because so many people then thought the term was inaccurate. It was catchy, though, one administration official said at the time.
Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld even tried out the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" or GSAVE, which would have taken into account the changed nature of the battle against international terrorism.
Bush, at a White House meeting of senior officials, reportedly objected to the change, noting that no one had checked with him. It was still a war as far as he was concerned, he said. By July, Rumsfeld was back to using GWOT in his speeches.
So the Decider has Decided.