- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

Dick Cheney’s lack of political ambition to succeed his boss gives him unusual freedom to be a lightning rod for contentious issues and serve as an “untainted” adviser to the president, the vice president said yesterday.

“Frankly, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the polls,” said Mr. Cheney, who as vice president is spearheading some tough battles on Capitol Hill involving the treatment of terrorist detainees and the administration’s terrorist surveillance program.

Historically, vice presidents have used their second term to plan their own presidential campaigns and, accordingly, walked on eggshells to appease voters.

“This has been a different kind of arrangement than most administrations have between the president and the vice president, primarily because I’m here to serve him; I’m not here to run for higher office,” Mr. Cheney told CBS’ Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.”

“My advice to him is untainted by any concern I might have about how the folks in Iowa look at me with connection with the 2008 Iowa caucuses,” Mr. Cheney said.

“And when I speak out on an issue, it’s because somebody needs to speak out on the issue. And I can do it without fear [because] I’m not here to try to burnish my image or improve my standing in the polls. I’m here to do a job that needs to be done for the president of the United States,” he said.

Mr. Cheney dismissed reports suggesting that he will be asked to step down and allow a presidential contender to take his seat.

Tongue-in-cheek, Mr. Cheney did confirm some Republican criticism that he has changed since becoming vice president: “I’m a lot older. I’ve got less hair,” he said.

He added seriously: “The job I have now as vice president is to be an adviser to the president, primarily. I don’t run anything. I’m not in charge of the White House.”

“I don’t talk about the conversations I have with him. I think presidents need to have somebody around them who is totally reliable and trustworthy and is going to protect those communications they have with the president.”

When asked whether he and President Bush play “good cop, bad cop,” with Mr. Cheney taking the political lumps on hot-button issues, the vice president said: “It may look that way. It’s not conscious.”

As for his accidental shooting of lawyer Harry Whittington on a recent hunting trip, Mr. Cheney said that even in hindsight and amid abundant late-night jokes, the White House press corps was adequately notified.

“I must admit the first thing I thought when I saw what had happened and rushed over to help Harry, I did not think, ‘Gee, I better call the press corps and tell them what’s going on here,’” said Mr. Cheney, who does not travel with the White House press corps on vacations.

“It struck me as a bit of a tempest in a teapot over the question of how it was announced. It was announced by us, I believe, in a timely fashion as soon as we knew what Harry’s status was,” Mr. Cheney said.

“I think it’s one of those situations or circumstances that is obviously difficult and generates controversy. It’s probably the first time the Secret Service ever had to worry about a protectee shooting somebody else instead of being shot at,” he said.

The vice president declined to speculate about a major staff shake-up at the Bush White House. “The president hasn’t indicated he plans to make any changes. If he does and when he does, I’m sure he’ll announce it,” Mr. Cheney said.

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