Cheney Burrows as Bush Ponders Iraq
What's become of Dick Cheney?
Washington insiders are buzzing over the fact that the vice president has been publicly silent and mostly out of sight since the Iraq Study Group issued its long-awaited report last week. White House insiders say Cheney is playing an inside game, advising President Bush privately not to change course too much in Iraq, not to withdraw U.S. troops anytime soon, and not to talk directly with the hard-line regimes in Iran and Syria about the situation.
Cheney, an architect of current policy, is waiting for Bush to decide, perhaps early in the new year, what to do next before he speaks out. At that point, insiders say, he will go public to sell the president's decision around the country, especially in speeches to conservative audiences who still have a high regard for Cheney, even though his popularity with the public is very low. A former associate who worked closely with Cheney for years says there may be another reason.
"I think we'll see less of him than ever," says the associate. "Iraq is now Bush's baby, and Cheney doesn't want to be tarred with it in the eyes of historians."
Meanwhile, as Bush meets this week with State Department advisers, outside experts, Pentagon officials, and others to come up with a "new way forward" in Iraq, Cheney has been at his side, taking extensive notes but mostly staying mum, at least at the meetings.