During this financial crisis, you’d sort of expect this to be an all-hands on deck effort by the Bush administration. You’d almost expect Dick Cheney to be visiting New York, meeting with Wall Street leaders while Bush handles things from DC. Or at least present at this weekend’s meetings with world financial ministers. But no, Dick Cheney has been far from the public eye. Has he even endorsed John McCain? Is Dick Cheney even still alive? When’s the last time you saw him on TV?

It made me wonder. Isn’t this the guy who was supposed to be the most powerful Vice President in history, calling the shots as W’s “coach”? Is he pacing a deserted beach in a pair of flowered shorts nursing a Mai Tai on a skull-shaped island and hoping to evade arrest by the Hague? What gives?

I was mighty curious so I wandered over to the VP’s page on WhiteHouse.gov. Last week, in the very thick of the Wall Street meltdown according to his website, Dick Cheney was last seen on Oct 3 addressing the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy. I’m a big fan of protecting our furry, finned and winged friends and have probably done more to do that professionally than Dick Cheney. Still, was this really his highest priority last week?! Bush introduced Cheney via satellite apparently. Here’s the text of Cheney’s remarks in which he still struggles to live down the fact – among his friends, peers & allies – that he shot a guy in the face while hunting. It’s pretty surreal – prepare yourself. Emphasis mine. Also…WOW.

Vice President Dick Cheney delivers remarks Friday, Oct. 3, 2008 at the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy in Reno.

Well, thank you all very much. A warm welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again. (Laughter.) Almost. But I’m delighted to be here this morning, and I appreciate, of course, the warm welcome and the very rare privilege of being introduced by the President of the United States. That doesn’t happen very often when you’re the Vice President. I’ve taken a lot of grief over the years, obviously, for that hunting accident in Texas — most of it from the President. (Laughter.)

“The men and women in this room understand what conservation is all about,” said the Vice President. “It means reverence toward creation, and a commitment to faithful stewardship. It means guarding our spectacular wildlife populations – not just for our own time, but for all time.” I will never forget walking into the Oval Office after that happened. And fortunately, my friend recovered and is in good health. But I walked into the Oval Office that day and the President looked at me, and he said, “Dick, here I am 30 percent in the polls, and you shot the only trial lawyer in Texas who supports me.” (Laughter and applause.)

And of course, the President was hoping to join all of you this morning. He’s been heavily committed this week, though, in terms of the events on Capitol Hill. After many turns in the road, the House is supposed to vote — could be any minute now, frankly — on the revised financial rescue package that’s been before the Congress for these last couple of weeks. The revised bill increases the limit on insured deposits to $250,000, and includes tax incentives for business to invest and expand and create jobs.

Nobody is happy about the current mess on Wall Street, but without decisive action by the government, there is a real concern that the problems we’re seeing today could get worse — indeed, parts of the credit market have already effectively seized up. As President Bush said, the choice is between “government action and the real prospect of economic hardship for millions of our citizens.” The financial rescue package clearly serves the national interest. The President, I believe, was right to propose it, and we look forward to having the opportunity to sign it into law.

So, as far as I can tell, Cheney was off on an autumn junket in Reno NV with his hunting and fishing buddies during the greatest American financial crisis since the Great Depression. He made no changes to his schedule (unlike Bush) despite the gravity of the economic situation before us. Nero fiddling while Rome burns? Or has Cheney been completely isolated from the halls of power given that all of his strategies and policies have been disastrous. No matter what, it’s not encouraging that there are clearly deep divisions in the White House at a time when the Nation needs strong leadership. I’m for regime change – how about you?

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