Dick Cheney’s Relations with the Press
Jay Rosen offers the most plausible explanation I have seen to date as to why Vice President Cheney waited eighteen hours to tell the press about his weekend hunting accident.
. . . Cheney took the opportunity to show the White House press corps that it is not the natural conduit to the nation-at-large; and it has no special place in the information chain. Cheney does not grant legitimacy to the large news organizations with brand names who think of themselves as proxies for the public and its right to know. Nor does he think the press should know where he is, what he’s doing, or who he’s doing it with.
The public visibility of the presidency itself is under revision, Marvin. More of it lies in shadow all the time. Non-communication has become the standard procedure, not a breakdown in practice but the essence of it. What Dan Froomkin calls the Bush Bubble is designed to keep more of the world out. Cheney himself is almost a shadow figure in the executive branch. His whereabouts are often not known. With these changes, executive power has grown more illegible under Bush the Younger–a sign of the times in Washington.
Cheney has long held the view that the powers of the presidency were dangerously eroded in the 1970s and 80s. The executive “lost” perogatives it needed to gain back for the global struggle with Islamic terror. “Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam both during the 70’s served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area,” he said in December.
Some of that space was lost to the news media, and its demand to be informed about all aspects of the presidency, plus its sense of entitlement to the star interlocutor’s role.
As the press has become more hostile to presidents and less inclined to respect any boundary of personal privacy for public figures, it stands to reason that a counter-reaction would occur. Presidents have long distrusted the press and sought to present information on their own terms.
Clearly, though, this White House and this vice president are taking that to a new level. So far, the public seems to be siding with the White House rather than the press corps.