Rumblings About Dumping Cheney Resurface (UPDATED)
The rumblings have started again about dumping Vice President Dick Cheney….but are they (a) out of the blue, (b) some politicians and a conservative journalist trying to send a message to the Veep or (c) a classic case of a feeler being floated out there by a higher official using a journalist to send a message to the Veep and test the public political waters for an idea?
Republicans are urging President George W Bush to dump Dick Cheney as vice-president and replace him with Condoleezza Rice if he is serious about presenting a new face to the jaded American public.
They believe that only the sacrifice of one or more of the big beasts of the jungle, such as Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, will convince voters that Bush understands the need for a fresh start.
The jittery Republicans claim Bushâ€™s mini-White House reshuffle last week will do nothing to forestall the threat of losing control of Congress in the November mid-term elections.
That’s because it was essentially a reshuffling of the deck and not bringing in someone who is seem as having a more critical, stand-back perspective on board. It did not seem to be the kind of transformational change that wouild reach out to bring in fresh blood into the administration and perhaps gain greater beyond-the-GOP support. MORE:
Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard magazine and author of Rebel in Chief, a sympathetic new biography of Bush, said: â€œThere are going to have to be sweeping personnel changes if people are going to take a second look at the Bush presidency.â€?
Barnes, who is close to the White House, said he believed Cheney would be willing to stand down in order to help Bush. â€œItâ€™s unlike Bush to dump somebody whom he likes and respects,â€? he cautioned. â€œBut the president needs to do something shocking and dramatic such as putting in Condoleezza Rice.â€?
Barnes’ status is what raises the authentic question as to whether at least part of this is some high White House source testing the politicial reaction of the public — and perhaps Cheney and his advisors — by floating the idea. AND:
Cheney appeared to have beeen caught napping during a visit to the Oval Office by Chinaâ€™s president, Hu Jintao, on Friday, although he claimed he had been looking down at his notes. It has often been said that he would cite medical reasons should he ever resign.
The best scenario, Barnes added, would be for Bush to announce that â€œDick Cheney will be around as an outside adviser and I can call him on the phone, but Iâ€™d like to anoint somebody who I think will be the next leader of the United Statesâ€?.
In due respect to Barnes, that would be a disaster if Bush couched any change that way. Most Americans would not be pleased if they thought he had essentially fired his Vice President (even if they don’t like the Veep) because the President felt he wanted to “anoint” (like some New American King) the next President. We haven’t had that precedent before in American history and, if it’s done strictly for that reason, it would be a dangerous precedent:
Tom Edmonds, a leading Republican consultant, said the White House had failed to grasp that the party was in desperate straits. â€œI have never talked to so many disenchanted Republicans,â€? he said. â€œThe president even stonewalled the minor changes he made by talking about how he was really perfectly happy with his team. He didnâ€™t even give himself wiggle room.â€?
One Republican strategist, who did not want to be named, said: â€œIf I were Bush I would think of changing Cheney. It is one of the few substantial things he can do to change the complexion of his administration. The rest is nibbling around the edges.â€?
If it was framed properly — and not as His Royalty The President deciding who the next President of The United States will be — it could be a plus for the administration. Cheney remains highly controversial because there is a suspicion that his stubbornness and seeming desire to get facts to fit into a preconceived viewpoint has reinforced Bush’s own modus operandi. And his image remains sullied by the Plamegate case and will likely remain so until the case is fully prosecuted (unless he is forced to testify or even charged in some aspect of it).
Will it happen? A Cheney exit seems a possible Bush trump card — one that could have some influence if timed correctedly (such as in October). But if Bush decides to do it (and Cheney agrees to it) he might consider ignoring Barnes’ advice that in sending Cheney back to Wyoming to give him time to do more hunting (if Cheney can find some uninsured partners) it be framed as the President decreeing to the Republican Party and nation someone who can continue his government beyond 2008. Why bother with primaries then?
But if it was couched as Barnes suggests it wouldn’t be surprising: it would be one more example of a government that seemingly is government of the base, by the base and for the base — and achieving national unity (and national support) means more than just the base.
UPDATE: In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times is urging Bush to jettison Cheney:
If President Bush Hopes the “shake-up” of his administration initiated last week will re-energize his listless presidency, he’s bound to be disappointed. A far more audacious makeover is needed â€” one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement….[Lots of MUST READ stuff in between here]…Having changed his tune, the president should also think about changing the company he keeps â€” big time, as Dick Cheney would say.
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