"Nice to Meet you, Mr. Vice President"

From Muscat, Oman, ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz reports:

Maybe I am mistaken, but Vice President Dick Cheney  does not seem to enjoy engaging with the press.

In fact, it seems downright painful for him.  I say this in part, because I have covered the White House now for two-and-a-half years and, as much as I hate to admit it, today was the first time I have really ever met the vice president.

He simply does not engage with the press corps on a regular basis.  But my interview with the vice president was set up before we left on this trip, a trip which included an unannounced stop in Iraq, and an overnight at a U.S. airbase in Balad where we slept in tents (although I am assuming that is not where the vice president and Mrs. Cheney slept). 

Today, we are staying in an opulent resort, the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, wedged between a spectacular span of mountains on one side, and the Persian Gulf on the other.

We interviewed Mr. Cheney in the 'Piano Bar' of the hotel, which was understandably empty at 10:00 in the morning.  Behind us was a massive bar, a grand piano and a rack with fine cigars. Mr. Cheney later told me that he and his family have visited Oman several times on “personal” trips. 

While we waited for the vice president to arrive,  his staff, all of them efficient and friendly made certain everything was in place. A cord was taped down so the vice president wouldn’t accidentally trip and go smashing into the rack of empty martini glasses. Water and black coffee were set on the table in front of him. The secret service, the really serious looking units with black shirts and enough armament to wage a small war, checked out the hallway where Mr. Cheney would arrive.  While they did, families passed by in bathing suits showing only mild interest in all the acitivity on their way to the pool. One small child waved a large plastic gun with whirling laser lights as he headed for the pool. One of the staffers joked that he could imagine the headline “Six-year-old child jumped by secret Service after brandishing weapon.” 

The hotel manager introduced himself to me, and then waited outside the bar for Mr. Cheney. I was told the exact spot to wait inside for the greeting.  When Mr. Cheney arrived (his daughter, Liz, a former State Department official, accompanied him) there was little small talk. There were a few attempted jokes about whether he wanted to sing a few tunes at the piano, but that didn’t go over so well.

He wasn’t unfriendly. Just very different than interviewing, say….the president, who pours on the charm.   Mr. Cheney seemed to just want to get the interview over with, and we did so right on time.

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