Some people may have been wondering if the nine-day old Dick Cheney hunting story would be going away. Don’t count on it. On the February 20 edition of the Early Show, Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor at Newsweek, told Harry Smith that "People who don’t like [Cheney] think this is the dark, Darth Vader type." His analysis coincided with the new issue of Newsweek that features a cover story, written by Thomas, on "Cheney’s Secret World." The online edition features this sub-headline:
"He peppered a man in the face, but didn’t tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney’s dark, secretive mind-set-and the forces that made it that way." (Italics added)
Thomas elaborated on his Dick-Cheney-is-a-Dark-Lord thesis in the Early Show interview. Airing at 7:18AM EST, he described the then Vice Presidential candidate of the 2000 debates as "amiable" and "reasonable." Now, Thomas added ominously, "There is this feeling that maybe Cheney has gotten more reclusive, a little gloomier, a little darker then he used to be."
Thomas spoke of a growing rift between Bush and the Vice President. His proof? According to the veteran journalist, "I do not want to overstate this, but they used to have a weekly lunch. They don’t anymore." Throughout the interview, Thomas peppered his comments with qualifiers and speculation. Here are but a few:
"And this is very speculative, one of the big guessing games in Washington is has the President changed in some way?"
"There are little, tiny signs that the President is less dependent..."
"There’s an endless guessing game in Washington about their relationship, and of course we don’t really know..." (Italics added)
Harry Smith, for his part, chose to speak for conservatives. He stated, "Fans would say that he can’t be bothered by the trivial needs of the press." Perhaps I don’t know the same Cheney "fans" that Thomas does, but wasn’t the conservative argument that the media was blowing the story out of proportion?
It seems as though the media’s plan to continue reporting on the story involves speculation and Star Wars references.
A partial transcript follows:
The Early Show 2/20/06 7:18AM EST
Harry Smith and Evan Thomas
Smith: "You know, this episode for a lot of people only serves to reinforce what Cheney lovers and Cheney loathers really believe already, which is what do you think?"
Thomas: "Well, you know, he does split the country. People who don't like him think this is the dark, Darth Vader-type guy. And people who do like him, and that's at least half the country, think the press is piling on and beating up on him unfairly."
Smith: "What does that ring to you? That absence of communication?"
Thomas: "Well, there's an endless guessing game in Washington about their relationship, and of course we don't really know because it is the mostly closely guarded of all, but there are little signs that it's, maybe, not quite as close as it once was. I do not want to overstate this, but they used to have a weekly lunch. They don't anymore, it's not every week. There are little, tiny signs that the President is less dependent on the Vice President then he used to be at the beginning of his Presidency."
Smith: "Yeah, because if we go back, and you indicate in your article, you go back all the way back to the beginning as they were campaigning, you know, people said they watched the debate with Cheney and Joe Lieberman, and people said they seemed like the grown ups compared to the kids (Thomas laughs) and people said maybe they should flip the tickets. Is there really a difference now? Is the President really is own guy and is Cheney some place farther back then the back seat?"
Thomas: "Uh, well, I mean there are a lot of, and this is very speculative, one of the big guessing games in Washington is has the President changed in some way? The amiable, reasonable Dick Cheney that we saw in those debates, in the first set of debates, now the view is that maybe he has changed a little bit. Brent Scowcroft, who was Bush 41's national security advisor, gave vent to this by saying, I don't know Dick Cheney anymore. Scowcroft and Cheney had gone way back and there is this feeling that maybe Cheney has gotten more reclusive, a little gloomier, a little darker, then he used to be."