Former aides: Cheney did not pull Bush’s strings

Two former top aides of President George W. Bush dimiss claims that Vice President Dick Cheney was the "power behind the throne" or the puppetmaster who controlled the Presidency, saying the claims are "myth" or just plain "hooey."

In interviews with The Washington Post, former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley try to redefine the public perception of Bush’s eight years in office.

They say "the decider" really made the decisions although they admit there was a period in the Bush Presidency when others made decisions for him.

Bolten and Hadley both worked for Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, but were not considered part of the "Texas mafia" who came to Washington with the younger Bush. Yet both became trusted insiders of the current President.

 

Reports Michael Abramowitz of The Washington Post:

Last week, in lengthy interviews in the spacious chief of staff’s office in the West Wing, Bolten and Hadley reflected on their White House years and painted an affectionate portrait of the president. As two of the top officials who have had to defend controversial administration policies for the duration of the Bush presidency, they voiced frustration over their inability to improve Bush’s popularity and to counter the administration’s image of arrogance. But in a wide-ranging conversation lasting more than two hours, the two men also rebutted what they consider common misconceptions of the George W. Bush era, such as the president’s alleged insulation from bad news and the view that Vice President Cheney wielded unbridled behind-the-scenes power.

"One of the mythologies," Hadley said, "is that it was the vice president that somehow was pulling the strings on foreign policy in the first term and made it very ideologically driven and that somehow in the second term, the vice president’s influence is in decline and, therefore, somehow the real Bush has come forward, and we have a more pragmatic foreign policy."

"That’s just hooey — it’s just hooey," the ever-polite Hadley concluded, with the strongest language he would muster for print. (Bolten chuckled and suggested earthier epithets, such as "bunk.")

But at the same time, Bolten said that one of his goals when he took over as chief of staff in the spring of 2006 was to put Bush back at the center of decision-making. From both officials’ perspective, the administration got into trouble when aides tried to make big decisions without involving the president.

"He’s a good decision-maker," Bolten said. "If it’s important enough to be a presidential issue, we ought to expose the president to more information and more views, and we ought to let him decide."