Should Cheney resign?

Dateline: 17 February 2006

Hands up everyone who thinks Dick Cheney should resign because he injured a fellow hunter. Hands up if you think he should resign because he didn’t tell the media about the accident for 24 hours.

Okay, now. Keep your hands up if you also think Ted Kennedy has no place in the Senate. Hey, where’d all those hands go? All those commentators in the mainstream media and Democrat hacks in the blogosphere seem to have put their hands down.

But Ted Kennedy didn’t just injure Mary Jo Kopechne, he killed her. And it wasn’t the media he failed to tell, but the police. If Cheney had fled from the scene with Harry Whittington still alive but bleeding, then his situation would be very similar to Kennedy’s. Yet the very people who are suggesting that Cheney resign are mostly the same people who revere Kennedy, have supported him in six re-elections and even an abortive run for the Presidency.

True, Cheney omitted to obtain his $7 license. But Kennedy chose to get into the driving seat of his car with alcohol in his bloodstream. Harry Whittington knew he was choosing to participate in a dangerous activity. It is by no means clear that Mary Jo Kopechne had any idea just how drunk Kennedy actually was.

Accidents happen. It is how people react to them that provides the measure of the person concerned. Being taciturn is perhaps a flaw in politician, but panicking and fleeing the scene of an accident is much more serious. It is the difference between being a bad politician and being a bad man.

Of course, Dick Cheney may yet resign. One reason for the criticism of him over this rather trivial issue is that he has long been the lightning rod for criticism of the administration. This is not such a bad thing, and has clear value to the President, but perhaps there will come a point when the President finds it convenient to have a popular Vice-President.

No-one can make Cheney resign, but the President could perhaps suggest that it would be valuable to the legacy of the administration if he did. There is a clear procedure for appointing a new Vice-President, though it has only been used once, after Spiro Agnew’s resignation. The President nominates a successor and both houses of Congress ratify the appointment.

In nominating Gerald Ford, Nixon faced the difficulty that Congress was controlled by the Democrats, so he needed to appoint someone popular in Congress. Bush would not face the same problem. Any new VP would be runaway favorite for the Republican nomination for 2008, a race that is currently wide open.

No doubt John McCain or Rudi Giuliani would bring considerable popularity to the administration and to the GOP ticket in 2008, but the President has never been close to either of them. If there is to be a new VP the strongest bet is surely Dr Condoleeza Rice.

Not just in the South (which Republicans win anyway) but in industrial states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois, Democrats can only be successful by mobilizing 90% of the African American vote. If the GOP share rose to just 30% then those five large states, four of which voted for Gore and Kerry, would slip firmly into the Republican column.

Copyright © Quentin Langley 17 February 2006

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