Maybe as part of

February 13, 2002 12:18 p.m.

Maybe as part of the eagerly-awaited Talking Points relaunch on Friday we need to set up a new feature called the Dick Cheney Own Worst Enemy Watch.

Look at this astonishing scoop from Bob Novak on CNN yesterday …

WOODRUFF: Unusual plans for Dick Cheney, going to the Middle East soon?

NOVAK: Vice presidential trips have turned into circuses because very little business is down. Remember Lyndon Johnson’s — well, you are too young for that.

WOODRUFF: Much too young.

NOVAK: But he has very spectacular — I remember it well. And you do remember the Spiro Agnew and the Dan Quayle trips were circuses.

Dick Cheney is going on 10-day trip to the Middle East. And his staff is considering whether they really want to take any press along, no members of the media whatsoever, to avoid all these made-up stories. They are very serious about it. No decision has been made, but they may say, hey, this is a business trip and we don’t need the media. After all, he goes to undisclosed locations without the media.

WOODRUFF: That would be almost unprecedented.

NOVAK: Without precedent, absolutely.

I don’t like to toss around the word ‘Nixonian’ loosely. But this is Nixonian. I had already half suspected that Cheney’s trip to the Middle East might have more to do with events taking shape at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue than stuff going on in the Middle East. But this speaks volumes about the direction the Vice President is going in and his views about the place of the press.

Barring any media coverage will “avoid all these made-up stories.” Is it too much to say that this sounds like something out of the Generalissimo Franco handbook, or something from Robert Mugabe? Media coverage apparently is only necessary or required when trips or events are only for show. But this is a “business trip [so] we don’t need the media.”

It’s certainly worth noting that these words are Novak’s, not those of the Vice President or his staff. But he’s a good reporter. And I doubt he’s not conveying the gist of their thinking.

But don’t get caught up with the arrogance. This is the sort of thing White Houses pull before they get into big trouble.

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