White House organization cites "conduct detrimental to the team"; Vice President expected to be released
WASHINGTON - Years after forming an improbably successful tandem, the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be parting ways.
"As of right now, Vice President Cheney has been suspended from the organization," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We will be evaluating whether we will honor his contract for the remainder of his term.
"I know you'll have further questions," McClellan added, "and I will do my best to not answer them."
Two incidents triggered the dramatic action by the White House. During a cabinet meeting last week, Cheney got into a physical confrontation with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, telling the secretary that, "I never should have let a Brillcreemed Princeton Greco-Roman ass grappler run my fucking war." The White House denies that the Vice President said, "Princeton."
Two days later, Cheney suggested during an interview that John McCain would be a better President than George W. Bush. "McCain is a warrior. I feel like, with him being knowledgeable about the Presidential situation, we’d have a better record than we do right now."
Analysts say that was the final straw.
"Time and time again, the White House has said, 'you bad mouth President Bush, you're a traitor,'" said commentator and former Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos, speaking from his home in Smurf Village. "This suspension sends a message that the policy of blind loyalty to Bush applies to everyone, even a star player like Cheney."
When reached for comment, the Vice President threw a shoe at reporters while making obscene gestures.
The McCain comment and Rumsfeld scuffle were the latest in a long line of problems between Cheney and Bush. During the investigation into the Valerie Plame CIA-identities-for-fun scandal, Cheney was criticized by Bush for throwing his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, under a bus. Cheney allegedly remarked, "Look here, flyboy, if I need to, I'll throw you under there, and your little dog too."
In recent months, the Vice President had also quarreled with Bush over his nomination of Harriet Miers and the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Cheney was especially incensed when the President failed to implement his suggestion to invade New Orleans and imprison its citizens before the hurricane could strike.
The Vice President had his own missteps as well. He has been roundly critcized for drawing up an Iraq gameplan that took the liberation for granted, as well as for disappearing during key moments when his team really needed him. Several other officials in the White House, speaking anonymously, have come forward and described him as arrogant, profane, power-mad, and "downright creepy, especially in the White House showers."
Cheney's suspension and probable release ends what had been a surprisingly successful partnership between two men who couldn't be more different. Bush brought the ability to smile, while Cheney offered more political experience, an encyclopedic knowledge of world leaders he hoped to have assassinated, and the ability to circumvent the democratic process when needed.
If the White House lets Cheney go, analysts say another administration is unlikely to pick him up. "He’s too much of an Oval Office cancer at this point," said Joe Scarborough from the payphone that serves as his MSNBC office. "He’s the kind of guy who won't just stab you in the back, he'll send you a candygram that says, ‘hi, I'm about to stab you in the back,’ right before you feel the hot fire of steel between your ribs. Hold on, someone just handed me a candygram."
President Bush, after being informed of the White House's decision, was diplomatic. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Dick Cheney, and I wish him well. But now it's time to look forward. Specifically, I look forward to not looking behind me when I shower in the White House."