Local Vocal: Be careful what you wish for

by JP Swisher

The recent shooting incident with Vice President Cheney has many Democrats and Bush-haters seeking to add yet more evidence to a compelling dossier that hopefully will lead to Cheney’s resignation.

By doing this they may be shooting themselves in the political foot.

Say what you will about Cheney, he is a most unique creature for our times: a vice president who apparently has no desire to run for president.

Since 1960, when Vice President Nixon narrowly lost his bid for higher office seven of his successors have either become ‘— or sought to become ‘— president, the most recent being Al Gore who lost a controversial split decision.

With no incumbent in 2008 the field is wide open for the first time since 1952. For the Republicans this could mean a protracted, bloody fight for the nomination, something for which their Democrat brethren are famous.

Let’s consider another possibility that becomes less far fetched every day. Suppose in the near future, Cheney comes forward and says, ‘“On the advice of my physician and because I must put the good of the country above my personal desire to complete my term, I will resign the vice presidency effective at noon tomorrow.’”

Thus, George W. Bush will be given the opportunity to select the man who would be president, and the automatic frontrunner for 2008. This nominee would require Senate confirmation. If he or she performs well at their televised hearings (such as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his) it could dramatically boost their viability. Suddenly the Democrats are facing a popular, formidable, sitting vice president and they don’t even have a candidate.

Such a theory is nothing new: political prognosticators often bandy about similar scenarios. More intriguing are the lists of possible suitors; several well-known names have been propounded.

For instance:

Condoleezza Rice: This could result in a dream contest: Condi versus Hillary. This seems unlikely, as Rice is not a proven vote getter. Still she has been loyal, a trait the president values most highly.

Rudolph Giuliani: The man who, amidst the chaos of 9/11, said, ‘“I thank God that George W. Bush is our president.’” The base of the party might disapprove but if Bush is looking for candidates with gravitas and grace under pressure who else could you ask for?

John McCain: He’s been a loyal soldier despite their differences and he certainly deserves it. McCain’s problem is age. He’ll be 70 this August, old for a VP and even older for a president.

Some pundits have even mentioned former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, star of the television show ‘“Law and Order.’” His agent probably floated his name but he is an impressive, presidential-looking guy. Another actor who ran a few years ago carried 92 out of 100 possible states.

The most likely choice would be a governor ‘— Bush has always favored governors. Perhaps a former governor who also served in Congress and the cabinet and hails from a big blue battleground state, one that would present a great base on which to build.

Such a man would be former director of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) Governor Tom Ridge. On his own in ’08, Ridge could stumble in states like South Carolina and Nevada. But with a successful vice presidency and the imprimatur of the White House behind him his chances would be much improved.

Regardless of who it is, a younger vibrant VP could prove a valuable asset in the upcoming mid-term elections and lay the groundwork for ’08.

Bush didn’t pick Cheney for political advantage or to leave a legacy. He will stick by him till the end. But if a cloud becomes a storm the end could come sooner than expected.

If you are a Democrat bent on recapturing the White House, you better hope Dick Cheney sticks around. The last thing you need at next year’s State of the Union is Tom Ridge, John McCain or Rudy Giuliani sitting behind the president’s right shoulder!

JP Swisher is a member of the Guilford County Board of Elections and a freelance writer from Greensboro.