Thursday, February 16


So now even the more eminently level-headed among MSM columnists are coming up with half-baked theories of palace intrigues over Vice President Cheney having taken dead aim at a thrushing bird last Saturday afternoon and hitting instead a hapless hunting companion. Peggy Noonan, for one, paints a scenario in her WSJ OpinionJournal column (out today) in which President Bush may seek to turn the Cheney/Wittington misfortune into a changing of the guard in order to launch a GOP presidential contender for 2008 who would sustain the GWOT, particularly in Iraq, and support "the Bush Doctrine."

Writes Ms. Noonan:

Why would they be thinking about this? It's not the shooting incident itself, it's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now. Halliburton, energy meetings, Libby, Plamegate. This was not all bad for the White House: Mr. Cheney took the heat that would otherwise have been turned solely on George Bush. So he had utility, and he's experienced and talented and organized, and Mr. Bush admires and respects him. But, at a certain point a hate magnet can draw so much hate you don't want to hold it in your hand anymore, you want to drop it, and pick up something else. Is this fair? Nah. But fair has nothing to do with it.

This is a White House that likes to hit refresh when the screen freezes. Right now the screen is stuck, with poll numbers in the low 40s, or high 30s. The key thing is Iraq. George Bush cares deeply about Iraq and knows his legacy will be decided there. It has surely dawned on the White House that "Iraq" will not be "over" in the next two years. Iraq is a long story. What Dick Armitage or Colin Powell said about the Pottery Barn rule was true: If you break it, you own it, at the very least for the next few years.

George Bush, and so the men and women around him, will want the next Republican presidential nominee to continue the U.S. effort in, and commitment to, Iraq. To be a candidate who will continue his policy, and not pull the plug, and burrow through.

This person will not be Dick Cheney, who has already said he doesn't plan to run. So Mr. Bush may feel in time that he has reason to want to put in a new vice president in order to pick a successor who'll presumably have an edge in the primaries--he's the sitting vice president, and Republicans still respect primogeniture. They will tend to make the common-sense assumption that a guy who's been vice president for, say, a year and a half, is a guy who already knows the top job.

Well, I don't buy it. Bush puts a lot of stock in personal loyalty. Just look how he's stuck by Donald Rumsfeld. And at a time when many conservatives in the Republican Party are growing weary of the exponential growth in government and government spending under George W. Bush and of the president's stubborn persistence in failing to address the illegal alien/porous borders problem, it is Dick Cheney, not the president himself, who gives the Bush Administration the imprimatur of conservatism. Indeed, the "Dump Cheney" movement in 2003 never gained traction for that very reason and supporters knew then that Cheney would not be a presidential contender in the future.

Noonan's premise is full of birdshot.