In recent weeks, Vice President Cheney has virtually disappeared from the public spotlight since last month’s economic collapse. He has given seven public speeches since Sept. 1, none of which were devoted to the economy. Cheney’s absence is puzzling considering his major role in crafting economic policy during the first term.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress asked the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, author of the new book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, about Cheney’s disappearance. Gellman suggested Cheney has become a less influential figure in the White House and Congress, handicapped by abysmal approval ratings:
GELLMAN: Several explanations for Cheney’s disappearance. Number one: if you have approval ratings lower than those of the least popular president in modern history, you’re not going to be tapped to go out and make the public case. He had one sort of foray into Congress to try to talk House Republicans out of their opposition, so he’s lost his sway with them. … But in the second term, Josh Bolten and Paulson have formed kind of an alliance to take back economic policies from the Office of Vice President which was where it resided in the first term.
Gellman cautioned, however, that Cheney “is probably is involved behind the scenes in shaping the policy because there hasn’t been many massive policies that he hasn’t helped shape.”
The administration’s initial plan doled out extreme powers immune of oversight to executive branch — the Section 8 provision of the original Paulson plan. Gellman said Cheney may have used the bailout as an “opportunity” to expand executive power:
GELLMAN: He would approve the idea that this an executive responsibility. He would argue both that in order to solve this problem the markets have to be convinced that decisions will be made swiftly according to a unified idea of how to solve the problem and that they would be final and that markets would not be worried about Congress undoing what the Treasury Secretary has just done. Uncertainty isn’t good, he would say, for economic planning. He would certainly also see this as an opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce that the executive needs to be supreme on big consequential national policy.
On whether Cheney supports bailouts, Gellman said he may have granted an exception for this one: “He doesn’t like them in general. He thinks people who take risks in a capitalist society ought to bear the consequences of those just as they ought to reap the gains.”
Check out Gellman’s site here.