Cheney for President?
"No Second Thoughts"
Fresh from minor heart surgery, Vice President Cheney says he hasn't had a change of heart. He still doesn't plan to run for president. "That was the right decision for me and my family and I have no second thoughts," he told Mark Knoller of CBS Radio yesterday. Look for him to deliver the same message tonight on CNN's "Larry King Live."
That no doubt will relieve much of the country and disappoint those true believers still holding out hope. After all, when it comes to Cheney, speculation always runs rampant, no matter what he says. Scenarios flow through Washington more readily than earmark money: He'll use last weekend's replacement of his defibrillator as a pretext to resign in favor of, say, Fred Thompson. Or he'll decide the 2008 field is so weak that he needs to change his mind and jump in to protect the country.
Maybe, some thought, Cheney would find he liked the taste of his 125-minute presidency while George W. Bush underwent a colonoscopy this month. Conservatives quickly dreamed up all sorts of agendas for the couple hours he was in charge. National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez collected from readers a list of things Acting President Cheney should do:
Commute the sentences of those border agents.
Fire Mike Chertoff.
Tell Harry Reid to ... well, you know ...
Ultimately, of course, Cheney did none of those things. Instead, he told Knoller, he spent his time in power writing a letter to his grandchildren as a souvenir. But that hasn't stopped the dreaming on the right. And why not? As deeply unpopular as he is with much of the country, many agitating for impeachment, Cheney is still a hero to some in the Republican primary electorate. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that even among the public at large, Cheney is more popular than Bush (okay, just barely, with a 34 percent approval rating to the president's 33 percent). And after all, America hasn't seen a presidential race in 80 years without an incumbent president or vice president running, so it's hard getting used to the idea.
Moreover, it's easy to imagine that Cheney doesn't find any of the current Republican candidates much to his liking -- Rudy Giuliani's tough on terrorism, but a lot more liberal than Cheney on issues such as abortion and gun rights; John McCain's stalwart on the Iraq war, but he and Cheney butted heads over torture; Mitt Romney wants to "double Guantanamo," something Cheney probably agrees with, but Romney doesn't seem like the sort of foreign policy heavyweight the vice president would prefer in this day and age; and Fred Thompson, well, all those plea bargains on "Law & Order" probably get Cheney's goat.
So should we look for a Cheney candidacy? The New York Sun thinks so. Just in April, it editorialized that the vice president should enter the race "because Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure, one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush." The editorial generated so much response that managing editor Ira Stoll wrote last week that it "caused a furor in the blogosphere and led to the production of an entire segment on CNN. It also led to several dinner party conversations of friends or relatives of the editorial writer devoted to whether the writer had finally lost his mind."
Stoll, though, went on to interpret the publication of Stephen Hayes's favorable new biography, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President" -- and the fact that the vice president gave 30 hours of interviews for it -- as signs that the door has not been completely closed. "My own guess -- okay, hope -- is that Mr. Cheney has taken a look at the Republican presidential field and sees an opening," Stoll wrote. "If Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans start receiving copies of 'Cheney' in their mailboxes, Mr. Cheney's popularity may yet begin to climb."
Maybe, maybe not. Cheney, actually, has been pretty clear on the subject even before yesterday's interview, taking William Tecumseh Sherman one step further just to be sure. "I made it clear from the outset that I'm not a candidate for president," Cheney said on CBS's "Face the Nation" last year. "I won't run for president. I've taken the Sherman statement -- 'if nominated, I will not run; if elected, I won't serve.' I mean, I've been very, very firm on that."
Very, very. Of course, if Cheney chief of staff David Addington can figure a way to get the vice president's office out of the executive branch, he ought to be able to find a loophole in that. And Cheney does like to tease. At many events, particularly political fundraisers, Cheney opens with this line: "A reception like that is almost enough to make you want to run for office again." Then he adds, deadpan: "Almost."
-- Peter Baker
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