A new documentary from Frontline, here, takes a deep look at the relationship between Cheney and Bush, and comes up with some fascinating and troubling answers. While Bush devotes hundreds of hours giving speeches and Q & As to diehard Bush supporters in rural America, Cheney remains firmly in the seat of power back in Washington, pursuing what Dan Froomkin describes as his "relentless, secretive and smashingly successful quest to expand executive power."
If Bush is unable to finish out his term, or is unable to serve in the aftermath of an election canceling series of terror attacks or national disasters in 2008, Cheney would take over, and presumably make full use of all that expanded executive power.
A reporter for the New Yorker is quoted in the documentary as saying,"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."
Bush gave an interview to a stunningly uncritical Fox News special about Cheney, to provide some 'insight' into his relationship with his vice president. Bush appeared to have great trouble putting that relationship into firm focus.
Q : "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."
(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."
Q: "Is he a man of few words inside the White House? What's his style when you meet?"
Bush: "Well, we have several constant meetings. One, when it's just the vice president and me -- which happens on a weekly basis, you know -- he's quite verbose. He comes with things that he wants to talk about, issues that he wants to share concerns about, or things that he's seen or heard."
Q: "Some critics claim he's pulling the strings in this administration. Others don't go that far, they say he's managed to figure out the angles and present you with certain options that limit your options when it's time to make a decision comes."
Bush: "I think I'm wiser than that -- than to be pigeonholed or, you know, to get cornered by a wily advisor. Look, that's not the way it works. Dick Cheney walks in and I say, 'What's your advice on this subject?' And he gives it to me and I make up my mind based upon a variety of factors including the advice of key advisors and he is one of them."
Q: "Some people describe him as the most powerful vice president ever. Do you agree with that?"
Bush: "I would say he's very influential. But he was no more influential than a Condi Rice or a Bob Gates or a Steve Hadley. And the thing about Vice President Cheney is that his decision-making -- or his recommendations about my decision-making -- are based upon a core set of principles that are deeply rooted in his very being. He is predictable in many ways because he brings a set of beliefs. And they're firm beliefs."
Maybe Bush is afraid of saying too much.