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How to Angle

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6. Shouting Is Powerful, Too.

During my reporting for my book "Angler," I did not find a single occasion when the vice president raised his voice. But that does not go for his counsel. One day, a pair of lawyers from the National Security Agency drove to the Justice Department to check on the legality of a program they supervised. Addington showed up uninvited and bellowed at them, "You are not going to see the opinions!" The towering, glowering Addington had no authority over anyone in the room, and the lawyers could have told him to mind his own business. Somehow, that just about never happened to a member of the vice president's staff.

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7. Know Thine Enemy.

It took three years for people on the National Security Council staff to learn that their e-mails and policy memos were bcc'd to the vice president's office. One of Rice's advisers discovered the secret arrangement after preparing a speech in which Bush would denounce the abuse of U.S.-held prisoners at Abu Ghraib and demand an explanation from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Cheney slipped the proposal to his old friend Rumsfeld, who mobilized a counterattack before the memo even found its way to Bush. Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy, called Hadley to complain, and the draft speech never reached the Oval Office. Nor was this type of intelligence-gathering limited to e-mails: Cheney's office sometimes used NSA transcripts to keep track of what policy rivals were saying overseas.

8. Don't Write It Down.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the man who got Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, convicted of perjury, once asked his target, "You're not big on e-mail, I take it?" Libby's reply: "No, not in this job." When Cheney's advisers did use e-mail, they omitted subject lines. For printed documents, they made up official-looking stamps that said, "Treated As: SECRET/SCI." Though the stamps had no legal basis, they instructed future archivists to protect routine paperwork -- for instance, the talking points for Cheney's press office -- as though it were "sensitive compartmented information," a designation used for the innermost secrets of national security. Palin showed much the same instinct as Alaska governor, using personal e-mail to shield official business, but she proved herself a newbie to stealth by choosing gov.palin@yahoo.com as her address and letting her account get hacked.

9. Watch the Boss's Diet.

Cheney often told the White House staff to keep problems off the president's plate as much as possible. If Cheney cared about an issue, he did what he did with barbecue when his wife, Lynne, wasn't looking: He piled his own plate high. When Cabinet officers brought spending complaints to the White House, Cheney, not Bush, chaired the review panel. When Attorney General John Ashcroft objected to military tribunals for alleged terrorists, he found Cheney, not Bush, awaiting him in the Roosevelt Room. A top adviser to the president could always insist on a meeting with Bush, but how many times does anyone want to dip into that well? Ashcroft turned left as he left the meeting, away from the Oval Office and back out onto the street.

10. The President Really Is the Decider.

Just after the inauguration in 2001, Quayle paid a call on Cheney with some friendly advice -- one vice president to another. Expect to see a lot of state funerals and rubber-chicken fundraisers, Quayle said, adding that he had put a few hundred thousand miles on Air Force Two. Cheney replied that he had "a different understanding with the president." Quayle said that the deal can change, and in Cheney's case, it did. As time went on, Bush took Cheney's advice less often. In his productive years, Cheney was the engine of historic change, from the shape of tax cuts to the war in Iraq. But toward the end, Cheney's power has become more like a foot on the brakes, slowing the reversal of his previous success. Seldom now does Cheney have the wheel.

* * *

Even amid setbacks, the No. 2 need not despair. The vice presidency comes with its own seal, its own anthem ("Hail Columbia") and the power to make everyone stand when you arrive. Everybody takes your calls, and your rank will get you inside just about any room.

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