Add to this the chilling discussion on "Meet The Press" about Cheney and members of his staff frequenting CIA headquarters, and even the strongest supporters of the administration could recognize that the vice president seemed a little too hands-on sure of himself for his viewers' comfort.
And therein lies the problem. For while Vice President Cheney seems almost eerily confident in the Bush White House's every move, much of the nation is currently unsure as to how and when the conflict in Iraq will last and at what cost -- both in dollars and, more importantly, lives. Couple that with an equal lack of public confidence over the reasons for the nation's economic troubles and the solutions to end them, and it's easy to see why it's not just policies that bear increasing scrutiny, but also the manner of their presentation.
Quayle often left the public with the impression that because he lacked ability, he was being kept off the media center stage to prevent embarrassment for the administration of the senior Bush. In turn, that may have undermined his self-confidence and in fact been a big reason that he came across as nervous and inarticulate.
Cheney's limited availability to the media and public may be for opposite reasons. His sheer command of the issues may appear to overshadow those of the president. But understanding policy does not always translate into an impression that one comprehends political reality. And the reality is that a growing number of moderates and conservatives who supported both the war in Iraq and the president's domestic agenda want a clearer picture of where we are headed. Will $87 billion turn into hundreds of billions? Is there a policy in the works to address employment issues if the economy recovery becomes a jobless one? And how will we deal with now-serious deficits?
The vice president and others who speak for the president need to connect more with the public by acknowledging reality, and by presenting a clearer plan for dealing with it.
In the case of Dan Quayle, it always seemed that everyone else in the administration knew a secret they chose not share with him. In the case of Cheney, there is, perhaps, the unintended appearance that he is the one with the unshared secrets.
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