The Biggest Cheney Mystery

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 1:53 PM

Just what is the relationship like between President Bush and Vice President Cheney? Behind closed doors, who defers to whom?

PBS's "Frontline" documentary series tonight chronicles Cheney's relentless, secretive and smashingly successful quest to expand executive power. While the Oval Office is traditionally the center of power, New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer notes on the show, "The strange thing about this administration is all of the most crucial decisions seem to be taking place in the vice president's office, or even the vice president's counsel's office."

In an interview for a Fox News special about Cheney that aired over the weekend, Bush insisted that he's the decider -- but even kindly disposed Fox News reporter Brett Baier noted that Bush was unusually vague in describing his relationship with the vice president.

Bush on Cheney

While neither Cheney nor his enormously influential legal adviser David S. Addington were willing to talk to PBS, the vice president welcomed Fox News's Baier with open arms.

As Baier explained at the opening of his report: "Fox News has been given unprecedented access into the vice president's world. We spoke at length with him, to some of the people that have known him the longest, and to the president himself. We shadowed Cheney in Washington, visited his homes here and in Wyoming and traveled with him on a mission to the Mideast."

And yet the most interesting part of the show was not what Cheney had to say, most of which we'd heard many times before. It was what the president said. I don't think Bush has ever faced so many questions about Cheney before.

Baier: "What is the relationship between you and Vice President Cheney? There's a lot of people here who say it's a mystery."

Bush: "It's not a mystery to me. I've gotten to know him well over seven years -- six and a half as sitting vice president and half a year as a candidate. First, I would classify our relationship as very comfortable with each other. Dick Cheney is an easy guy to be around."

Baier, in a voiceover: "The president even seemed to have a hard time characterizing his relationship with his vice president."

Bush: "I've come to admire him. So I would say it's a very comfortable, close relationship."

Baier persisted.

Baier: "Is he a man of few words inside the White House? What's his style when you meet?"

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