Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Bush takes Cheney out of the loop on national security
The role of Vice President Dick Cheney as the administration's point man in security policy appears over, according to administration sources.
Over the last two months Mr. Cheney has been granted decreasing access to the Oval Office, the sources said on the condition of anonymity. The two men still meet, but the close staff work between the president and vice president has ended.
"Cheney's influence has waned not only because of bad chemistry, but because the White House no longer formulates policy," another source said.
"There's nothing to input into. Cheney is smart and knowledgeable, but he as well as Bush are ducking all the time to avoid the bullets."
The sources said the indictment and resignation of Lewis "Scooter" Libby marked the final straw in the deterioration of relations between President Bush and Mr. Cheney. They said Bush aides expect that any trial of Mr. Libby, Mr. Cheney's long-time chief of staff, would open a closet of skeletons regarding such issues as Iraq, the CIA and the conduct of White House aides.
"There's a lack of trust that the president has in Cheney and it's connected with Iraq," a source said.
The sources said Mr. Bush has privately blamed Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. They said the president has told his senior aides that the vice president and defense secretary provided misleading assessments on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, as well as the capabilities of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
As a result, the sources said, Mr. Cheney has been ousted from his role as the administration's point man in the area of national security. They said presidential staffers have kept Mr. Cheney out of the loop on discussions on policy as the White House has struggled with the political and intelligence fallout from the war in Iraq.
Mr. Bush is not expected to replace Mr. Cheney unless the vice president follows the fate of his former chief of staff. The sources also said Mr. Rumsfeld is expected to remain in his post until U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
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