Compare and contrast

June 26, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

I was pretty pleased to discover that the Minneapolis Star Tribune was running the WaPo’s articles about Cheney. Up to but not including the moment I realized there were huge, unacknowledged edits to the WaPo piece that included cutting nearly 2/3 of the first story. And so I launched a line-by-line comparison of the WaPo and Strib versions. Much was lost in the editing process, but readers were left to believe they were seeing the original version that is causing so much conversation, at least in the blogosphere. Not so.

It’s hard to tell what prompted the deletions. Given that the Strib is now owned by a corporation with no journalism creds, it may have been about squeezing the story into a space that fits the newspaper’s new skinny, relatively newsless format. No room for the third installment today. So right here in my own back yard we have what LeftyMN calls “news lite.” And in this case, the deletions contribute to Voldemort's ability to slither around, playing fast and loose with our government.

What follows is the portion of the first piece that the Strib saw fit to print in edited fashion. The bolded text below indicates the portions the Strib cut out of the first installment. Click here to compare and contrast.

(The first four paragraphs are intact.)

    The episode was a defining moment in Cheney's tenure as the 46th vice president of the United States, a post the Constitution left all but devoid of formal authority. "Angler," as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of power obliquely, skirting orderly lines of debate he once enforced as chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford. He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain. He has empowered aides to fight above their rank, taking on roles reserved in other times for a White House counsel or national security adviser. And he has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did not assert.

    Over the past six years, Cheney, 66, has shaped his times as no vice president has before. This article begins a four-part series that explores his methods and impact, drawing on interviews with more than 200 men and women who worked for, with or in opposition to Cheney's office. Many of those interviewed recounted events that have not been made public until now, sharing notes, e-mails, personal calendars and other records of their interaction with Cheney and his senior staff. The vice president declined to be interviewed.

    Two articles, today and tomorrow, recount Cheney's campaign to magnify presidential war-making authority, arguably his most important legacy. Articles to follow will describe a span of influence that extends far beyond his well-known interests in energy and national defense.

    (snip)

    In roles that have gone largely undetected, Cheney has served as gatekeeper for Supreme Court nominees, referee of Cabinet turf disputes, arbiter of budget appeals, editor of tax proposals and regulator in chief of water flows in his native West. On some subjects, officials said, he has displayed a strong pragmatic streak. On others he has served as enforcer of ideological principle, come what may.

    Cheney is not, by nearly every inside account, the shadow president of popular lore. Bush has set his own course, not always in directions Cheney preferred. The president seized the helm when his No. 2 steered toward trouble, as Bush did, in time, on military commissions. Their one-on-one relationship is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney's impact on events. The two men speak of it seldom, if ever, with others. But officials who see them together often, not all of them admirers of the vice president, detect a strong sense of mutual confidence that Cheney is serving Bush's aims.

    The vice president's reputation and, some say, his influence, have suffered in the past year and a half. Cheney lost his closest aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to a perjury conviction, and his onetime mentor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a Cabinet purge. A shooting accident in Texas, and increasing gaps between his rhetoric and events in Iraq, have exposed him to ridicule and miserable approval ratings in the teens. Cheney expresses indifference, in public and private, to any verdict but history's, and those close to him say he means it. (barbara note: The last sentence was moved down below the next paragraph. Next paragraph was moved up from elsewhere in the story.)

    “Last week, his general counsel asserted that “the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch,” and Cheney is therefore refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets.

    Cheney expresses indifference, in public and private, to any verdict but history's, and those close to him say he means it.
    Waxing or waning, Cheney holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio of policy matters across the executive branch. Bush works most naturally, close observers said, at the level of broad objectives, broadly declared. Cheney, they said, inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.

    Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.

    'The Go-To Guy on the Hill' replaced with “I have a different understanding”

    In his Park Avenue corner suite at Cerberus Global Investments, Dan Quayle recalled the moment he learned how much his old job had changed. Cheney had just taken the oath of office, and Quayle paid paying a visit to offer advice from one vice president to another.

    "I said, 'Dick, you know, you're going to be doing a lot of this international traveling, you're going to be doing all this political fundraising . . . you'll be going to the funerals,' "Quayle said in an interview earlier this year. "I mean, this is what vice presidents do. I said, 'We've all done it.' "

    Cheney "got that little smile," Quayle said, and replied, "I have a different understanding with the president."

    "He had the understanding with President Bush that he would be -- I'm just going to use the word 'surrogate chief of staff,' " said Quayle, whose membership on the Defense Policy Board gave him regular occasion to see Cheney privately over the following four years.

    Cheney, 66, grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and Casper, Wyo., acquiring a Westerner's passion for hunting and fishing but not for the Democratic politics of his parents. He wed his high school sweetheart, Lynne Vincent, beginning what friends describe as a lifelong love affair. Cheney flunked out of Yale but became a highly regarded PhD candidate in political science at the University of Wisconsin -- avoiding the Vietnam War draft with five deferments along the way -- before abandoning the doctoral program and heading to Washington as a junior congressional aide.

    He went on to build an unmatched Washington resume as White House chief of staff, House minority whip and secretary of defense. An aversion to political glad-handing and a series of chronic health problems, including four heart attacks, helped derail his presidential ambitions and shifted his focus to a lucrative stint as chairman of Halliburton, an oil services company. His controlled demeanor, ranging mainly from a tight-lipped gaze to the trademark half-smile, conceals what associates call an impish sense of humor and unusual kindness to subordinates.

    Cheney's influence in the Bush administration is widely presumed but hard to illustrate. Many of the men and women who know him best said an explanation begins with the way he defined his role.
    As the Bush administration prepared to take office, "I remember at the outset, during the transition, thinking, 'What do vice presidents do?' " said White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, who was then the Bush team's policy director. Bolten joined Libby, his counterpart in Cheney's office, to compile a list of "portfolios we thought might be appropriate." Their models, Bolten said, were Quayle's Council on Competitiveness and Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

    "The vice president didn't particularly warm to that," Bolten recalled dryly.

    Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to "every table and every meeting," making his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in," Bolten said.

    Cheney has used that mandate with singular force of will. Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence, at Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels where his predecessors were seldom seen. He found pressure points and changed the course of events by "reaching down," a phrase that recurs often in interviews with current and former aides.

    Mary Matalin, who was counselor to the vice president until 2003 and remains an informal adviser, described Cheney's portfolio as "the iron issues" -- a list that, as she defined it, comprises most of the core concerns of every recent president. Cheney took on "the economic issues, the security issues . . . the energy issues" -- and the White House legislative agenda, Matalin said, because he became "the go-to guy on the Hill." Other close aides noted, as well, a major role for Cheney in nominations and appointments.

    As constitutional understudy, with no direct authority in the executive branch, Cheney has often worked through surrogates. Many of them owed their jobs to him.

    While lawyers fought over the 2000 Florida ballot recount, with the presidential election in the balance, Cheney was already populating a prospective Bush administration. Brian V. McCormack, then his 26-year-old personal aide, said Cheney worked three cell phones from the round kitchen table of his townhouse in McLean, "making up lists" of nominees beginning with the secretaries of state, defense and the Treasury.

    "His focus was that we need to prepare for the event that [the recount] comes out in our favor, because we will have a limited time frame," McCormack recalled.

    Close allies found positions as chief and deputy chief of the Office of Management and Budget, deputy national security adviser, undersecretary of state, and assistant or deputy assistant secretary in numerous Cabinet departments. Other loyalists -- including McCormack, who progressed to assignments in Iraq's occupation authority and then on Bush's staff -- turned up in less senior, but still significant, posts.

    In the years that followed, crossing Cheney would cost some of the same officials their jobs. David Gribben, a friend from graduate school who became the vice president's chief of legislative affairs, said Cheney believes in the "educational use of power." Firing a disloyal or poorly performing official, he said, sometimes "sends a signal crisply." Cheney believes he is "using his authority to serve the American people, and he's obviously not afraid to be a rough opponent," Gribben said.

    A prodigious appetite for work, officials said, prepares Cheney to shape the president's conversations with others. His Secret Service detail sometimes reports that he is awake and reading at 4:30 a.m., officials said. He receives a private intelligence briefing between 6:30 and 7 a.m., often identifying issues to be called to Bush's attention, and then sits in on the president's daily briefing an hour later. Aides said that Cheney insists on joining Bush by secure video link, no matter how many time zones divide them.

    Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store his office’s workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

    Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance. (barbara note: This portion was moved into an earlier paragraph, and changed to “Last week, his general counsel asserted that “the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch,” and Cheney is therefore refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets. The rest was deleted.)

    In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down.

    All those methods would be on clear display when the "war on terror" began for Cheney after eight months in office (barbara note: the next phrase was added by the Strib) and when the order for military commissions received Bush’s signature without the knowledge of Powell or Rice.

    The balance of the story – more than half of it – was cut by the Strib.

    And there you have it -- a glimpse at all the news that’s print to fit.

    Part III in today's WaPo: A Strong Push from Behind

    Posted in

Comments

Poet (not verified) | June 26, 2007 - 11:56am

This all sounds like a song and so with appologies to Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins I present:

Both Sides Now

Rows of type crying forth
The pen is mightier than the sword
Proclaiming to corrupt dinosaurs
Change or be cast away

But now they only dull th mind,
Excising facts should be a crime,
So many things are left undone,
'Cauise "news" got in the way,

I seen the dickster
From both sides now,
WaPo and Strib
But still somehow,
It's all illusion I recall,
I really don't know
the dickster at all

»

barbara aka babs (not verified) | June 26, 2007 - 3:30pm

Excellent. A new pastime. Partisan poetry. To wit:

There once was a VP named Dick
Whose hide was exceedingly thick
The Beltway folks feared ‘im,
But Junior revered ‘im,
Even though the Dark Lord is a, ummm, jerk.

»

MLS (not verified) | June 26, 2007 - 10:41pm

Thanks, Barbara, for bringing the Washington Post articles
to my attention. Great reading and so important.

And now a few inner thoughts from VP Dick:

It's nobody's business what actions I take,
I go by my rules (the laws that I make).
I tune out the words that people do say,
Nope, don't give a damn, I'll do it my way.
My partner, George, well, he helps me some,
He speaks my words while I just stay mum.
I love this control; I love this power,
Sit on my throne and watch peons cower.

»