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While both Bush and Cheney are political creatures, they are of utterly different species. Bush loves the foreplay of politics; Cheney can't stand it. Bush learned it at his father's knee; Cheney came to it much later and as a student. Worse, he was a student of political science, a man trained as a staff member, crunching the numbers, writing about highway reforms. As heir to a political dynasty, Bush was always a stand-in for the big guy himself, not an aide but a doppelganger. And although it was not until 1994 that he began to run seriously, he had been in the motorcade since college. Cheney was born to serve but not to run for the top job, though it took a painful outing before he realized it. During his short-lived presidential bid in 1994, Cheney would ask his handlers if they could make the fund raisers more substantive, which is like trying to make a frat party more philosophical. Even after Bush tapped him to be his running mate, the advance team outlined a parade event in which Cheney would meet and greet some of the voters. "Um," said a Cheney staff member tentatively, "Mr. Cheney does not like to shake hands."
By coming together, each can become even more himself. Bush knows his limitations but does not feel compelled to overcome them, learn what he doesn't know or master what he knows only superficially; Cheney is the consummate student, a voracious reader who absorbs information, masters the details and takes quiet pride in his expertise. "Dick lets George be the external political outside guy, the schmoozer, the talker," says a friend who has known both men long enough to use first names. "And George lets Dick run the machine. George would be bored by process. He understands it. He manipulates it. But he doesn't want to live in it. George gets energy from interacting with people, like his father did. Cheney doesn't. He could spend every day of the rest of his life in his West Wing office and be fulfilled just talking on the phone, moving the process, meeting on policy."
Cheney is the most powerful deputy ever, and he is also very much Bush's subordinate; this is not a contradiction so much as a cause and effect. Bush trusts Cheney because he is loyal, discreet and very clear about who is in charge; that trust in turn is Cheney's trophy, up on the mantel for all to see. They have more than that weekly private lunch that Al Gore insisted on when Bill Clinton recruited him. They are together every day, sometimes for most of the day; Cheney attends any important meeting and then often stays behind with Bush alone. As a minister without portfolio, he has no territory to defend or institution to protect, which means that "the President doesn't have to run his advice through a filter," says an aide to the Vice President. "Cheney's view isn't the State Department view or the Pentagon view; it's Cheney's view."