I didn’t watch the vice presidential debate. I have taken to reading such things online by preference but in thinking about the two men involved I am struck by what an odd choice Cheney was for vice president. I think this says something about the way that Bush views the Presidency.
Historically, VPs are chosen primarily for political reasons. Usually, they balance the ticket regionally or are a sop to one wing of party. The VP is there largely because the Constitution requires it. The VP is an outsider to the President’s inner circle. He has a role and is consulted and kept apprised but he is not core.
Cheney is rather unique among VPs in that he was selected not as a Constitutionally mandated spare president or to placate some faction of the Republican party. Cheney is Bush’s right-hand man. He is a member of Bush’s inner circle and a core team player.
I think Bush constructed his administration the way he set up a business team. A vice president of a corporation has definite responsibilities and power devolves though them from the president. Bush seems to view Cheney in this role of a manager or administrator, not in the role of a political associate. Cheney is probably the first VP to have the full trust and confidence of his president and vice versa. He is directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Administration.
Bush seems to have a ruthlessly practical approach to problem solving. I don’t think theory interests him much. He set up his administration to get things done managerially, not to accomplish some short-term political goal. Cheney gets things done so Bush put him in the VP slot while ignoring the traditional political wisdom.
In the process he may have permanently altered the office of the Vice Presidency.