As Dick Cheney’s approval ratings plummet to a mere 18%, the American Prospect investigates what makes the man who is only “a heartbeat away from the presidency” tick. But that’s easier said than done when the VP and his staff are so secretive that they don’t even maintain an employee directory. According to the Prospect, until the Valerie Plame leak, “outside the Washington cognoscenti, it’s a safe bet that not one in a hundred Americans could name a single Cheney aide.”
[Cheney’s] press people seem shocked that a reporter would even ask for an interview with the staff. The blanket answer is no — nobody is available. Amazingly, the vice president’s office flatly refuses to even disclose who works there, or what their titles are. “We just don’t give out that kind of information,” says Jennifer Mayfield, another of Cheney’s “angels.” She won’t say who is on staff, or what they do? No, she insists. “It’s just not something we talk about.”
Col. Larry Wilkerson, a former top aide to Colin Powell, portrays the vice president’s office as the source of a zealous, almost messianic, approach to foreign affairs. “There were several remarkable things about the vice president’s staff,” he says.
One was how empowered they were, and one was how in sync they were. In fact, we used to say about both [Rumsfeld’s office] and the vice president’s office that they were going to win nine out of ten battles, because they are ruthless, because they have a strategy, and because they never, ever deviate from that strategy … They make a decision, and they make it in secret, and they make in a different way than the rest of the bureaucracy makes it, and then suddenly foist it on the government — and the rest of the government is all confused.”
As the Bush administration considers an attack on Iran, Cheney’s secretive office is likely again to be at the forefront of internal policy debates.