Image Makeover for Cheney

An unlikely celebrity is hitting the talk show circuit, the airwaves and the bookshelves. Normally reclusive Vice President Dick Cheney is everywhere these days, and it seems he may be trying to soften his usually gruff manner.

Is the world ready for a new, friendlier Cheney? He's hardly the person Republican image makers would choose as the face of the Bush administration these days.

He's still taking a hard line on the Iraq War.

"There are always things in war that happen that nobody anticipated," Cheney said during an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" recently, "but that doesn't mean the strategy is wrong."

But in the same interview Cheney acknowledged he was wrong in 2005 when he insisted the insurgency in Iraq was in its "last throes" -- his most direct public admission of how badly the administration underestimated the strength of insurgent movement in Iraq.

At the same time he's finding a softer way to present some positions. Rather than speaking directly about Iran, for example, Cheney wrote a letter for his grandchildren and made it public.

"As I write this," the letter begins, "our nation is engaged in a war with terrorists of global reach."

When CBS Radio's Mark Knoller asked Cheney what he said in the letter to his grandchildren, Cheney responded that it is "a souvenir for them to have down the road some day."

He was even acting president for a few hours during Bush's recent colonoscopy.

Remaking His Image?

So what is prompting this mini media blitz? Perhaps it's an attempt to boost his leaden poll numbers or to staunch the ubiquitous lampooning, once and for all.

But some critics say that a few mainstream media appearances are not nearly enough to successfully make over his image.

"If he wants to change his image, he has to do it on David Letterman, Jay Leno, John Stewart and maybe talk to 'Doonesbury,'" said ABC News' Cokie Roberts.

Cheney insiders say the recent appearances are nothing close to an image makeover. Apparently, the vice president doesn't take much to being molded.

"Dick Cheney is not somebody who sits at the vice president's residence at night and scratches his head and thinks, 'Hmm, how can I go from 26 percent favorability to 37 percent favorability?'" said Stephen Hayes, author of the new authorized biography "Cheney."

Cheney's team has said the recent publicity wave comes as part of an administration public relations blitz on Iraq. But his poll numbers are so low right now that he may not be an effective messenger.

Despite any attempts at a makeover or any coaching from Cheney's team, the bottom line is that whenever he speaks, he's always, unapologetically, Cheney. When King asked whether he thought the 3,000 lives lost in Iraq were lost in vain, he simply said, "No, sir."

Reuters wire service contributed to this report.

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