"Conservative Hard-Liners" vs. North Korea

Helene Cooper slants her story on liberal State Department diplomacy's triumph in North Korea over Dick Cheney's "hard-line" approach.

In "Bush Rebuffs Hard-Liners To Ease North Korean Curbs," Friday's off-lead story on the supposed triumph of liberal-style State Department "diplomacy" over Dick Cheney's "hard-line conservative" style, reporter Helene Cooper twice echoed the headline's slanted characterization of conservative opponents of engagement with the dictatorship of North Korea. (Interestingly, that tyranny isn't called hard-line by Cooper.)

Cooper opened with this unflattering (and off-the-record?) anecdote about Vice President Cheney:

Two days ago, during an off-the-record session with a group of foreign policy experts, Vice President Dick Cheney got a question he did not want to answer. "Mr. Vice President," asked one of them, "I understand that on Wednesday or Thursday, we are going to de-list North Korea from the terrorism blacklist. Could you please set the context for this decision?"

Mr. Cheney froze, according to four participants at the Old Executive Office Building meeting. For more than 30 minutes he had been taking and answering questions, without missing a beat. But now, for several long seconds, he stared, unsmilingly, at his questioner, Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a public policy institution. Finally, he spoke:

"I'm not going to be the one to announce this decision," the other participants recalled Mr. Cheney saying, pointing at himself. "You need to address your interest in this to the State Department." He then declared that he was done taking questions, and left the room.


Thursday's announcement intensified a pitched battle in Washington, where Democrats and many foreign policy experts said the administration had dithered too long before reaching this deal, allowing North Korea to acquire enough plutonium to make several nuclear weapons. From the other side of the fence, conservative hard-liners complained that the United States gave away too much for too little, and should have adopted a more absolutist approach with the secretive North Korean government.


North Korean officials said the demolition would cost $5 million, and the United States offered $2.5 million - an amount that conservative hard-liners in Washington said was too much, according to several administration officials involved in the talks.