Loose Cannon

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 14, 2006; 2:18 PM

Who's calling the shots at the White House? Dick Cheney, of course.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from Vice President Cheney's accidental shooting of a hunting buddy on Saturday, and the ensuing press blackout.

But the evidence suggests that Cheney isn't interested in learning any of them. Instead, the public is getting an opportunity to learn some lessons about Cheney.

And lesson number one is that Cheney gets his way.

Jim VandeHei and Sylvia Moreno write in The Washington Post about new details that show that "the White House allowed Cheney to decide when and how to disclose details of the shooting to the local sheriff and the public the next morning.

"President Bush and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove were told of the shooting Saturday night but deferred to Cheney on providing information to the public, White House aides said. In what one official described as a break with the White House practice of disclosing such high-level mishaps immediately, Cheney waited more than 14 hours after the shooting to disclose it publicly. . . .

"The White House typically releases information immediately on incidents involving the president's personal life, such as bike-riding accidents, to avoid the appearance of covering up embarrassments. It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the White House to allow a private citizen [to] serve as its de facto spokesman.

"But current and former aides said the White House rarely imposes its practices, especially on press matters, on Cheney. The vice president's office often operates autonomously in a manner that many top White House officials are reluctant to challenge."

Anne E. Kornblut and Ralph Blumenthal write in the New York Times: "At the White House, Mr. Cheney made no statement on Monday and remained out of public view. At the beginning of a meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, Mr. Bush laughingly told Mr. Cheney that reporters would later enter the room; the vice president left before the journalists arrived."

Kornblut and Blumenthal write that the White House was under pressure "from questions about whether Mr. Cheney -- who is already known for his inclination to keep his business, professional and political dealings behind closed doors -- might have been trying to play down the incident, a suggestion rejected by those who were with Mr. Cheney over the weekend.

"Among the people with him at the Armstrong Ranch in South Texas was his host Katharine Armstrong, a lobbyist and longtime friend of Mr. Cheney. Her lobbying clients include several that do business with the federal government, though Ms. Armstrong said she did not believe that she had ever lobbied Mr. Cheney."

Here's Bill Plante on CBS this morning: "The vice president's office did what they wanted. . . . In any other White House that I've covered -- and that's several, as you know -- the vice president would never have this kind of power. But if it were up to Dick Cheney, he wouldn't tell us if our shirts were on fire, for heaven's sakes. He likes to hold things close and he and his office drove this."

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