By: E&P Staff
While other major newspapers mock or praise the recent “shake-up” at the White House, and debate whether it’s enough, the Los Angeles Times today became the first to go (nearly) to the top, calling for Vice President Cheney to step down.
The editorial warns that if President Bush hopes the re-shuffling “will re-energize his listless presidency, he’s bound to be disappointed. A far more audacious makeover is needed ? one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement.” It refers to this, with a wink, as a “big-time” move.
The Times calls the president’s second term “disastrous,” beyond getting two reliable conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court. “Regardless of one’s political bias, premature presidential lame-duckitis is not healthy for the nation,” the Times advises. It calls for further personnel moves, and firing Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.
But then it concludes:
“Suppose Bush didn’t stop there. Suppose he also asked Cheney, his mentor and friend but an even more polarizing figure than Rumsfeld, to step down.
“We know the objections. The vice president is not a mere presidential appointee but an elected constitutional officer. In choosing a replacement, Bush might be pressured to predetermine the outcome of the 2008 Republican presidential race by anointing one would-be successor over another. Throwing Cheney overboard would be an implicit repudiation of the excessively hawkish foreign policy with which the vice president, even more than Rumsfeld, has been associated.
“Unlike most vice presidents, Cheney does not aspire to be president, and he is the consummate Bush loyalist. He would not be giving up a political birthright by agreeing to retire (citing health reasons or a concern about the publicity surrounding the trial of his former chief of staff, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby). And the problem of taking sides in the 2008 election is easily solved. Bush could nominate as Cheney’s successor an elder party statesman ? Bob Dole, anyone? ? with no interest in the 2008 nomination.
“We even have an answer to the complaint that in jettisoning Cheney, Bush would be repudiating his own record. The truth is that the president, however grudgingly, has recognized that he and the administration made mistakes in the run-up to the war in Iraq and in its aftermath. He has not confessed that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but he has acknowledged with increasing explicitness that he was wrong to believe that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction.
“No longer proclaiming ‘mission accomplished,’ Bush has been pursuing a sadder-but-wiser policy in Iraq that many Democrats also endorse. It involves ramping up the training of Iraqi troops to take over from U.S. forces while leaning on Iraq’s feuding sects to join, however unenthusiastically, in a government of national unity.
“Having changed his tune, the president should also think about changing the company he keeps ? big time, as Dick Cheney would say.”