Cheney to Resign after Midterm Elections?

Insight on the News reports that Vice President Dick Cheney will retire after the 2006 elections, clearing the way for President Bush to appoint a successor.

Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to retire within a year. Senior GOP sources envision the retirement of Mr. Cheney in 2007, months after the congressional elections. The sources said Mr. Cheney would be persuaded to step down as he becomes an increasing political liability to President Bush.

The sources reported a growing rift between the president and vice president as well as their staffs. They cited Mr. Cheney’s failure to immediately tell the president of the accidental shooting of the vice president’s hunting colleague earlier this month. The White House didn’t learn of the incident until 18 hours later. Mr. Cheney’s next crisis could take place by the end of the year, the sources said. They said the White House was expecting Mr. Cheney to defend himself against charges from his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, that the vice president ordered him to relay classified information. Such a charge could lead to a congressional investigation and even impeachment proceedings.

“Nothing will happen until after the congressional elections,” a GOP source said. “After that, there will be significant changes in the administration and Cheney will probably be part of that.”

Much of this is nonsense. Most notably, while the public did not learn fo the shooting accident for 18 hours, the president and key White House staff knew within three hours.

Further, if the rationale for dumping Cheney is that he is a political liability, then why wait until after the only remaining election that directly impacts this president? The GOP could certainly use a boost to help ensure that it retains a majority in both Houses of Congress. Whatever buzz a new vice president would generate–and even a historic double like Condi Rice would generate only limited buzz–would long have dissipated by November 2008.

New York Magazine, too, is on this bandwagon.

[T]he political downside of shedding Cheney would be negligible. But the upside would be great. First and foremost, it would give him a chance to anoint a successor in the person of his new VP. The possibilities here are endless, and endlessly fascinating. Among GOP players, the assumption is that the immediate front-runner would be Rice, whom Bush manifestly adores, and who in turn is viewed with remarkable enthusiasm by the Republican grass roots. Just below her on the list is Senator George Allen, a Virginian whose propensity for southern-boy macho affectations (not only does he wear cowboy boots at all times and speak of his reverence for the fallen nascar hero Dale Earnhardt Sr., he also dips tobacco, carrying a spit cup with him everywhere) exceeds even Bush’s. Further down, there’s Senator Bill Frist, whose last known residence was Rove’s hip pocket. (As for McCain, I won’t go there; I get enough right-wing hate mail already.)

By choosing any of these characters, Bush would impose order on what promises to be a fractious Republican contest in 2008—and there’s nothing the GOP craves more than order in selecting its presidential nominees. And he’d be substantially increasing the odds that his policies, in particular on Iraq, would be carried forward.

Certainly, elevation to vice president would enhance the chances of either Rice or Allen getting the nomination. But John McCain and Rudy Giuliani both have higher Q ratings and fundraising ability. And, unless the president’s poll numbers go north by 20 points or so, the party will likely want someone less tied to the administration, anyway.

And then there’s this: “The fact that Bob Herbert wrote that he should resign guarantees that he’ll be there through 2009. The psychology of this administration is, the more the chattering classes suggest something, the less likely it is to happen.”


Joe Gandelman thinks there is something to all this. “There are two functions for a Vice President: (1)Be there and be ready to take over if the President passes away or quits. Cheney is doing that. (2) Do no harm to the President. Cheney is NOT doing that.”

Steve Bainbridge will believe it when he sees it, but is nonetheless holding a poll for possible successors.

Jim Henley thinks Bush won’t do it because his father wants him to do it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Here we go again.

  2. RA says:

    Exactly right. This is nothing but a Kos wet dream.

  3. Anderson says:

    Henley may well be right. I guarantee you this is not just some Kos dream. There is doubtless a Republican wing that thinks Cheney’s been the drag on the administration.

    Scowcroft was pretty blunt about Cheney in that N’Yawker piece a while back, and D.C. is not a town where people forgive & forget. It also makes sense in that only George & Barbara Bush would think that W.’s a great president who just needs to ditch that Cheney guy.

  4. Fersboo says:

    Rumors of the untimely demise of this Vice President seem to be as ubiquitous as death and taxes.

  5. ken says:

    The psychology of this administration is, the more the chattering classes suggest something, the less likely it is to happen

    I think this is close but doesn’t quite pin it down.

    The psychology of this administration is more like a belligerent bar room brawler looking for a fight and who feels mightily challenged by the slightest hint of disrespect.

  6. Mark Jaquith says:

    Be there and be ready to take over if the President passes away or quits. Cheney is doing that.

    Barely. He’s be ready to take over, but the next person in line better not go far… Cheney isn’t exactly in mint condition.

    Cheney doesn’t have (or want, from what he’s said) much of a political career left after 2008. The Republicans could really use a “slingshot” to put someone in the spotlight in preparation for the 2008 campaign. That doesn’t mean these rumors are true… but I can see the upside.

  7. legion says:

    C’mon, with approval ratings as low as _18%_, it’d be more of a benefit to the Dems for Cheney to _stay_ at this point.

    Personally, I think James has it right – If Cheney offers enough benefit to the administration and/or GOP to stay on through the ’06 elections, there’s no reason for him to go at all. If he’s truly a boat anchor, there’s no reason for him not to go _now_.

  8. g-man says:

    Bush won’t push Cheney out the door now for fear it’ll make him look like an idiot for not doing it 2 yrs ago, in the runup to the reelection campaign, which is when it really should’ve happened. (Bush hates to admit a mistake, and dropping Cheney would be just that.) The Dickster was ripe then for moving back into the intelligence dept. to give the appearance of cleaning up the CIA’s Iraq buildup messes. It’s too late to move Cheney from the White House grounds now, Bush already missed his boat.

  9. McGehee says:

    There is doubtless a Republican wing that thinks CheneyÂ’s been the drag on the administration.

    There’s also a wing of the Republican Party that thinks Steve Forbes should be president now.