Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Vice President Dick Cheney has emerged as a likable and effective stalwart in the Bush administration with consistently favorable ratings and strong party backing, according to a poll released yesterday by Gallup.

The survey also quells the notion set forth by persistent critics that Mr. Cheney lurks behind the scenes as a kind of White House puppet master and power broker.

“The American people generally like him, Republicans support him, and despite his important role at the White House, he does not outshine his boss publicly,” said Gallup’s Lydia Saad.

About 55 percent of respondents gave Mr. Cheney favorable ratings. The vice president’s numbers have remained consistently high, ranging from 54 percent to 67 percent in the last two years. In addition, 69 percent of Republicans said Mr. Bush should keep Mr. Cheney as his running mate.

Meanwhile, the public does not buy the idea that Mr. Cheney secretly controls the White House as a “power behind the throne,” according to the poll, which surveyed 1,006 adults from Oct. 24-26.

It found that 63 percent said Mr. Bush makes the “important decisions” while 18 percent said Mr. Cheney was the more powerful. When the same question was asked in January 2001, the figures stood at 55 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The poll also found that 51 percent said Mr. Cheney had “the right amount” of power, 21 percent said he had too much and 22 percent too little.

“The pattern of Cheney’s ratings since he became vice president generally parallels public opinion toward George Bush, suggesting that Cheney’s image is tied more to his boss’ job performance than to anything he is doing individually,” the poll stated.

Yet old myths persist.

“He sifted intel. He brooded about threats. And he wanted Saddam gone. The inside story of how Vice President Cheney bought into shady assumptions and helped persuade a nation to invade Iraq,” notes a Newsweek story on Mr. Cheney this week.

The magazine builds the case that Mr. Cheney’s “apparently exaggerated alarms over Iraq, weapons of mass destruction and the terror connection may make Americans slow to respond the next time he sees a wolf at the door.”

Though Mr. Cheney declined an interview with Newsweek, the magazine claims its sources “paint the portrait of a vice president who may be too powerful for his own good,” and that Mr. Cheney “created a parallel government that became the real power center.”

But he is every bit the loyal company man in a Republican campaign message issued yesterday.

“The Democrats and their liberal special interest allies have been using fiery rhetoric that sharply illustrates what is at stake in this election,” Mr. Cheney noted.

“Not a single day has passed that the Democratic presidential candidates, the Democratic Party and their liberal allies haven’t called into question the president’s character, his veracity, even the president’s leadership on the war on terrorism,” he continued.

“Yet, our president has remained focused on the people’s business, winning the war on terrorism, cutting taxes, working to create jobs and a strong economic recovery, reforming public education, and improving Medicare,” Mr. Cheney concluded.

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