Insiders See Cheney Behind White House Line On Testimony

Republican insiders see the hand of Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House's tough stand against allowing political adviser Karl Rove and other senior White House officials to publicly testify under oath before Congress.

"It's classic Cheney -- the defender of executive power," says a senior Republican who talks regularly with West Wing officials. He points out that Cheney believes the power of the president has been eroded over the years in a very unhealthy way -- going back to his stint as Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff during the divisive Vietnam era.

But there is a growing sense among GOP insiders that, in the end, Bush and Cheney will accept a compromise that allows White House officials to testify under oath, complete with transcripts, but in private. One thing that Bush and Cheney want to avoid is grandstanding by legislators for the cameras and the appearance that Rove is a defendant in a trial.

More important, the insiders' theory is that Bush, on Cheney's advice, wants to avoid a Supreme Court confrontation over executive power. If the high court ruled against the president, it could set back Executive Branch prerogatives for many years -- and that's something that Cheney doesn't want to risk," says a colleague of the vice president.

By Kenneth T. Walsh