Cheney's Influence Not Felt as Strongly

There seems to be decreasing influence of Vice President Cheney, especially in the area of foreign policy.

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The fate of former vice presidential aide Lewis Libby is now in the hands of a jury. Libby is accused of perjury and obstructing a federal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been keeping track of the trial and what it and other developments may signal about Libby's old boss.

DANIEL SCHORR: The headline in yesterday's Washington Post read: "Cheney's Influence Lessens in Second Term." The headline in the New York Times: "Trial Spotlights Cheney's Power as an Infighter." But the vice president wasn't here for the denouement of the trial of Lewis Libby, once his indispensable chief of staff. Cheney was on a mission to Australia and to friendly countries in Asia. If Libby made a mistake in passing on word about Joseph Wilson's marital status - his wife was a CIA officer - it was an era of loyalty to his boss.

The leak was obviously a reprisal for Wilson's report from Niger, blowing a hole in the administration's theory about Iraq and uranium. But beyond the indication of the infighting in the White House, Cheney is no longer the administration's favorite spokesman on Iraq and on other foreign policy issues. In his speech today, the vice president said the United States wants to leave Iraq with honor. But that speech was made in Tokyo.

And if Cheney has weigh in on the six-power agreement on energy aids in North Korea in return for a shutdown of its nuclear plant, he hasn't said so very loudly. But his close ally, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, immediately denounced the deal as fundamentally flawed. In Tokyo, Cheney left it to a Japanese official to say that it was a step in the right direction. Cheney may be one of the last of the neoconservative ideologues in high office who helped to make the invasion of Iraq happen.

Joshua Muravchik, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, in the memorandum to my fellow neoconservatives, says that a comeback is urgent. He writes: The administration has made its share of mistakes, and so did we. We were glib about how Iraqis would greet to liberation. Did we fail to appreciate sufficiently the depth of Arab bitters over colonial memories? And Muravchik's memo addresses this to President Bush: Prepare to bomb Iran. President Bush will need to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before leaving office.

But with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Fife gone, it's left now to Cheney to deliver the neoconservative message.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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