Press Girds Loins as Big Time Leaves Undisclosed Location

The vice president, it seems, has cursed his way back onto reporters’ radar screens. Whether prompted by the f-word episode on the floor of the Senate last week, or in anticipation of Cheney’s battleground state bus tour this weekend, several journalists have turned their gunsites toward Big Time this week.

On Tuesday, the Boston Globe’s Peter S. Canellos got things going with a piece headlined, “Long Executive Reach Distinguishes Cheney,” in which Canellos declared that in American history “there has never been anyone other than a president as powerful as Cheney” (apologies, Olsen twins).

As if that weren’t enough to give readers pause, Canellos goes on to paint a spooky picture of a man who “hides his influence,” is “seen darting between meetings,” and, because he’s unlikely to aspire to the presidency given his age and health issues, is “beyond the normal political controls: No one can ward him off by threatening to embarrass him politically.”

Canellos continues by sounding an oddly lame note. He observes that Cheney’s “character and motivations ought to be fair game for the media” as the campaign heats up. And so, he adds, “should efforts to connect the dots on his unusual ascent.” (It’s not every day you see a reporter admit in his story, essentially, “Somebody needs to roll up his sleeves and do what I didn’t.”)

The Los Angeles Times’ Peter Wallsten today offers up his own Cheney-focused piece. Wallsten homes in on not on the VP’s “character and motivations,” or his “unusual ascent,” but rather on how both campaigns are “train[ing] the spotlight” on Cheney— with Republicans hoping he will “shore up support with the party’s conservative base,” and Democrats pointing to Cheney’s “ties to … Halliburton Co., his role in building the case for war with Iraq and his recent use of a vulgarity on the Senate floor.”

Cheney’s potty mouth aside, Bush will not drop him from the ticket, Sidney Blumenthal assures Salon readers today. “Cheney will never hear from Bush the words he hurled at Leahy,” he writes. Still, Blumenthal — a former Clinton administration media bulldog who knows a thing or about overstepping boundaries in the White House — relishes Cheney’s profane slip. “A main source of Cheney’s effectiveness and image of competence has been his ability to avoid putting his cards on the table,” he says — until now, when, “in a moment of pique, he dropped the entire deck.”

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.