"Angler" is the code-name used by the Secret Service to refer to V.P. Cheney. "Angler" the book tells the story of V.P. Cheney's role in the Bush administration - from his selection as candidate, his initial moves before even taking office, to his ability to influence decision-making throughout the Bush term, and does this in a calm, credible manner.
Selecting a Running Mate: Bush asked Cheney early on, and was turned down. This, per Gellman, only increased Cheney's appeal. Bush II had witnessed tensions between his father's White House staff and those looking out for Dan Quayle's future; Cheney, in addition, had told him about problems between Nixon-Ford, and Ford-Rockefeller. Bush did not interview a single candidate before settling on Cheney. Further, Cheney negotiated his expanded role at the beginning - "I want to be a real partner in helping you reach decisions."
Cheney's Role in Staffing Positions: Cheney's commanding role on major appointments was without precedent. He recruited candidates, pre-interviewed them, and escorted them for Bush's approval in Austin. For State, Bush already set his sights on Colin Powell, and Linda Chavez for Labor (she withdrew after a nanny-scandal). Cheney brought in Rumsfeld, Whitman (EPA), and O'Neill (Treasury).
Cheney did not stop at the cabinet - 2nd and 3rd ranking officials (eg. Hadley, Bolton) could be vital allies. In policy fields he cared about Cheney placed people even deeper in the bureaucracy. The list did not include most of the Friends of George from the Republican Governor's Association.
"Scooter" Libby was made national security advisor, chief of the V.P. staff, and assistant to the president.
Cheney Gets Personally Involved: Early on (12/03/00), Cheney got his imprint in on the economy by suggesting a recession looked likely - setting the stage to blame Clinton and cut taxes. Cheney also attended almost all NSC meetings and briefed Bush afterwards (Rice did also - separately.) Cheney joined the regular Wednesday lunch of the president's economic team (secretaries of labor, commerce, and treasury, also the budget director), and the National Economic Council, the weekly Senate Republican caucus (LBJ was the last V.P. that tried - he was blocked by the Senators; Cheney pointed out that he was President of the Senate).
Also, the White House created a panel called the Budget Review Board, with Cheney as chair. Overseeing the budget was exactly the find of serious, boring work that Bush disliked, and Cheney thrived in the vacuum. Conflicts with OMB went to the Board, and no one appealed further to Bush.
Cheney also usually sent a staff member to Norquist's Wednesday anti-tax luncheons. Cheney had abandoned Milton Friedman's "no free lunch" maxim for Laffer's supply-side economics - despite serious objection from his long-time friends Paul O'Neil and Alan Greenspan.
Unlike most of his rivals and even the president, Cheney knew what he wanted. One of his first assignments to staff was a fast-track review of Clinton's departing executive orders, accompanied by an order to stop associated operations at the Government Printing Office. (Cheney knew that regulations have no force until printed in the Federal Register). He also got Bush to freeze hiring for everyone whose paperwork wasn't complete.
Cheney then finagled an office on the House side - close to the action on tax-writing. Greenspan began weekly visits to the White House - mostly to see Cheney. One important result was taking Greenspan out of 100% opposition to the Bush tax cuts.
Cheney worked With Andy Card to undermine Sen. Chafee's opposition to the bush tax cut, and convinced Bush to stand firm against Jefford's threat to bolt the party is not given additional Special Education funds. (Cheney reasoned that the R's had already de facto lost control, and did not want to reward threats.)
The Energy Task Force: Cheney asked for chairmanship of the task force on energy. Prior to starting, he directed an assistant to devise a structure that would leave the task force beyond reach of the Federal Advisory Commission Act (Hillary's undoing). This was achieved by limiting "membership" limited to employees of the executive branch. When challenged, Cheney convinced Bush to fight disclosure, contrary to most other advisers; his aim was to set a precedent and gain power.
Environmental groups were limited to a single meeting, and used up half the time making introductions; regardless, Cheney did not attend. An early goal became to walk Bush back from support for reducing CO2; Cheney was aided by four R Senators' requesting clarification from Bush. EPA Secretary Whitman sensed a problem, scheduled a meeting with Bush, but was beat by Cheney's presenting a proposed response to the Senators.
How did he do it - his energy task force portrayed the scientific debate as complex, and unresolved. Bush hated wading into that sort of situation and usually told experts to come back when they had hammered out their facts. Cheney also called for smarter policy and technology to avoid the choice between less energy and greater pollution.
Cheney sat in on the president's daily briefings - AFTER receiving the briefing himself earlier in the A.M. Thus prepared, he was able to shape the president's briefing as well as make comments of his own.
Following these paths gave Cheney awareness and involvement in much of went on in the White House early on. From here on he was in an ideal position to play a leading role, detailed in an interesting and credible manner by "Angler," in the Bush administration. This included not just influencing decisions but also ensuring they were carried out - eg. "defanging" new source EPA rules for coal-fired power plants. Still another source of Cheney's strength was his long-term relationships with numerous members of Congress, which he sometimes strained with slanted and stretched versions of reality (eg. describing Iraq's dangerousness to Rep. Armey to convince him to support war).
Bottom Line: "Angler" shows V.P. Cheney did not acquire his power and influence by accident - it was built through his experience and learning in prior decades at the top levels of government. Clearly he has transformed the nature of the office, and was aided in doing so by an uninvolved, incurious president who was also a poor manager (eg. failure to follow-up directive to Rumsfeld to begin Guantanamo trials, to back up Rice vs. Rumsfeld; to quickly realize "Brownie" was incompetent - Cheney did).
On the other hand, Cheney's ignoring warnings pre-9/11 (along with Bush), sometimes duplicity, and lack of pragmatism in favor of erroneous policies (eg. resisting information requests, even from the 9/11 Commission; almost marching the administration over the cliff regarding reauthorization for internal eavesdropping; lack of sensitivity to growing opposition to the Iraq War) are serious, irredeemable flaws.
Finally, to be fair, it should also be pointed out that Cheney was scrupulous in avoiding possible personal gain from his actions (eg. the Energy Task Force).