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The Unraveling of Dick Cheney

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, January 29, 2007; 12:18 PM

While Dick Cheney undoubtedly remains the most powerful vice president this nation has ever seen, it's becoming increasingly unclear whether anyone outside the White House believes a word he says.

Inside the West Wing, Cheney's influence remains considerable. In fact, nothing better explains Bush's perplexing plan to send more troops to Iraq than Cheney's neoconservative conviction that showing the world that we have the "stomach for the fight" is the most important thing -- even if it isn't accomplishing the things we're supposed to be fighting for. Even if it's backfiring horribly.

But as his astonishing interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer laid bare last week, Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.

Maybe that works within the White House. But for the rest of us, it's becoming a better bet to assume that everything -- or almost everything -- Cheney says is flat wrong.

Meanwhile, the trial of Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby is exposing to public view the vice president's role as master-manipulator of misinformation and vindictive retaliator-in-chief -- once again, indifferent to the truth. (For example, Cheney ordered his staff to lie to reporters about the contents of a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate.)

And former aide Cathie Martin's testimony on Friday validated the most cynical conspiracy theories about how Cheney manipulates the press.

President Bush, while taking action that clearly suits the vice president, has nevertheless moderated some of his rhetoric -- acknowledging serious troubles in Iraq, for instance, and admitting that American soldiers are now caught in the middle of sectarian warfare.

But for Cheney, Iraq is an "enormous successes," it's the media's fault that more people don't recognize that, and showing "lack of stomach" in Iraq would lead not just to a debacle there but to cataclysmic domino-style effects across the globe and terrorist attacks within our borders.

So perhaps it's not a surprise that Cheney is losing support even from fellow Republicans who, looking ahead to the 2008 elections, do not relish carrying the burden of defending his increasingly indefensible world-view.

The CNN Interview

Maura Reynolds writes in Thursday's Los Angeles Times: "A day after President Bush struck a conciliatory tone toward critics of the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney did the opposite Wednesday, denouncing as 'hogwash' the assertion that the administration had lost credibility because of blunders in Iraq. . . .

"Cheney long has been a polarizing figure for the administration, which is one reason why he has generally limited his public appearances to conservative groups. But in recent months, Cheney has become an increasingly problematic figure even among stalwart Republicans, in part for how he defended former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld."

Peter Baker writes in Thursday's Washington Post: "Vice President Cheney said yesterday that the administration has achieved 'enormous successes' in Iraq but complained that critics and the media 'are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure' that they are undermining U.S. troops in a war zone, striking a far more combative tone than President Bush did in his State of the Union address the night before.


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