The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising.
As the reputed architect of the war in Iraq, Cheney is viewed as toxic, and as the administration's leading proponent of an attack on Iran, he is seen as dangerous. As long as he remains vice president, according to this thinking, he has the potential to drag down every member of the party -- including the presidential nominee -- in next year's elections.
Removing a sitting vice president is not easy, but this may be the moment. I remember Barry Goldwater sitting in my parents' living room in 1973, in the last days of Watergate, debating whether to lead a group of senior Republicans to the White House to tell President Nixon he had to go. His hesitation was that he felt loyalty to the president and the party. But in the end he felt a greater loyalty to his country, and he went to the White House.
Today, another group of party elders, led by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, could well do the same. They could act out of concern for our country's plummeting reputation throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.
For such a plan to work, however, they would need a ready replacement. Until recently, there hasn't been an acceptable alternative to Cheney -- nor has there been a persuasive argument to convince President Bush to make a change. Now there is.
Quinn suggests that Bush and the Republicans have not had a good replacement for Cheney—Giuliani’s too New York social liberal, Romney’s a Mormon and McCain’s campaign put Bush off too much with the conflict/competition. But she says Fred Thompson could be the knight in shining armor who could remove one of the most toxic elements of the Republicans’ horrible public image.
She writes that installing him as vice president could help set him up as a stronger candidate for the 2008 presidency, and could act to put a damper on Bush’s “button” moments. Quinn concludes;
Cheney is scheduled this summer for surgery to replace his pacemaker, which needs new batteries. So if the president is willing, and Republicans are able, they have a convenient reason to replace him: doctor's orders. And I'm sure the the vice president would also like to spend more time with his ever-expanding family.
I don’t think the dems will allow Bush to appoint a potential presidential candidate as vice president. Why would they allow the Republicans to have a leg up in the presidential race.
A more likely scenario is for Bush to appoint a senior—very senior—leader of the conservative hierarchy as vice president—even his own father or perennial Republican rescue ranger James Baker. Matter of fact, James Baker might be perfect, except that he might find himself in a position where he would decide to take a run for the presidency. It will be tough to find a Republican who is both respected, who can actually HELP Bush and the nation, and for whom a run for the presidency is definitely off the table. But that could be the biggest impediment to helping Bush reach the point where he encourages Cheney to accept that note from the doctor saying he needs to retire.
It’s likely that before this scenario unfolds, Harry Reid will vet the replacement Bush has in mind. It’s unlikely Bush will proceed without some confidence that he can replace Cheney without a big fight in congress. He’s already been embarassed enough by his growing lame duck status.
Still, as more and more ugly, embarassing, Republican-party-damaging dirt comes out on Cheney, THE WALKs to Bush’s office, like the one Goldwater led to Nixon, will be happening with greater and greater frequency. There will be building pressure to dump Cheney, not only from the Republicans. I’d be surprised if the current count of eight members of congress who have signed on to Kucinich Cheney impeachment bill doesn’t climb to ten in the next week or two. With the Dem failure to stop the war, one way to placate unhappy Democratic voters is to throw them the Cheney bone.