News of Tomorrow: Cheney Resigns
Which of the GOP’s rising stars will step in to replace Vice President Dick Cheney?
Washington, D.C. March 11, 2007. In a stunning development, U.S. President George W. Bush convened a rare Sunday afternoon press conference in the White House's East Room and announced the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney.
"It is with profound regret and deep sadness that I have accepted his resignation," Mr. Bush said, "but unfortunately the risks to his health demand no less. As you know, Dick cannot be with us today since he is in intensive care at Bethesda Naval Hospital."
"Dick has given himself to his nation and the entire world tirelessly and selflessly. He has not been remiss for a single moment ever since he accepted my offer to serve as my Vice President in the summer of 2000," Bush said.
In a reflective mood, he added, "God knows, we have faced tremendous challenges together — the onslaught of terrorism on our soil, bringing democracy to Iraq, strengthening our nation's economy in a period of great turmoil. All Americans owe him and his family a tremendous debt of gratitude."
Bush continued, "I count myself as first among all of us to thank him for his service. Together, we were a great team."
Washington was rife with speculation about the real story behind Mr. Cheney's resignation. Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's 'Hardball,' said, "I knew it, I knew it. Remember how a day or so before the Libby verdict, after his tour to Australia, Afghanistan and so on, there were these reports about the blood clot in Mr. Cheney's leg? That was the signal that the Bush team was about to dump Cheney. But we all missed calling it so."
The American Enterprise Institute’s political analyst, Norman Ornstein, said, "Faced with the sting of the guilty verdict against Scooter Libby, Mr. Cheney's former chief of staff, the President had no other choice. Things around the White House just looked like one disaster piling on top of another. This way, he can try to liberate himself from a vital part of his failed strategy by saying, in so many words, 'Dick Cheney made me do it.'"
Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. Defense Secretary, reached at his home in St. Michaels in rural Maryland, stated that he and Mr. Cheney would accept the blame.
"Truth be told," Rumsfeld said, "we were put into our respective jobs to guide an otherwise quite inexperienced team, beginning with the President himself. I believe we did the right things — but with the benefit of hindsight, I can admit that things blew up in our face. We didn't see it coming."
White House sources added that the announcement of Mr. Cheney's resignation — and effective retirement — had been delayed by a few days due to some last-minute hiccups in selecting the new Vice President.
"Faced with a terrible situation in the polls — and next-to-no excitement about the current Republican candidates for President in 2008 — George Bush was faced with a tremendous dilemma," said James Baker, one of the top Washington power brokers of the last 25 years.
"Leaving Cheney in his post and having all the Republicans fight amongst themselves in the primaries would not give the new guy enough of a chance to establish himself," Baker emphasized.
"After all, our team has been in the White House for the past six-plus years," Baker said. "Not having a Vice President gearing to run for President was the most significant drawback of selecting Dick Cheney at the time."
Mr. Baker continued, "When the President called me in to head up his search team to propose the new Vice President, I accepted — but only under two conditions: First, unlike Dick Cheney, I would not make myself available to fill the post."
"And second," Baker added, "I counseled the President that he did not have a single second to spare. It was high time to act decisively — and pick the right man on the spot."
Then, Baker related, the President asked him whom he should pick. Baker responded, "The choice is simple. Just think back to the highlight of your presidency, when you took command of the nation and acted like a real leader. Who stood by your side at that moment?"
After looking puzzled, according to people inside the room during the conversation who declined to let their names be used due to the sensitivity of the situation, President Bush is reported to have asked: "Well, tell me, who?"
Baker seized the moment, "Remember the bullhorn moment at the World Trade Center site?"
"Yes, I do," Bush said. "It was a retired New York City fireman, Bob Beckwith. But he can't become Vice President," Bush said.
"Right. But who else was there?" Baker asked. "Pataki?" Bush answered tentatively. "Correct," Baker coolly replied, "but he shouldn’t become Veep either."
"The man I have in mind, Mr. President, is Rudy Giuliani. I know he has some drawbacks. His main challenge is that he will face a hard time getting by the hyper-moralistic right wing of our party in the primaries," Baker went on to elaborate.
"But I think you would agree with my political judgment that anybody who passes their muster and becomes the Republican candidate will be dead meat at the ballot box in '08. The country has changed."
"We both know Rudy is a multiple divorcee, but he is a decisive leader much in your mold. Plus, frankly, he is one of the very few Republicans who is not associated with the Iraq War. Instead, people remember him as the leader of New York at its most difficult moment in history."
Getting uncustomarily excited about his vision, Baker added in an excited voice, Plus there are all the shots of the two of you — standing like Brothers in Arms, side-by-side, uniting the country. Great campaign shots."
"In short, Mr. President, Giuliani is the best horse in the stable to refocus the attention of the American people on the domestic front, away from Iraq. And whether he faces Hillary or Obama, Rudy can claim that he has actually done things, run things, gotten things accomplished — unlike those two policy wonks."
"As we say in Texas, there is but one shot left in the barrel of your rifle. With that one, you've got to kill the opposition. Who knows what the Democrats will do to you after you leave office — if they take the White House. I have heard rumors that, since impeachment would no longer be an option, that they would feed you to the International Court of Justice. That would be a total disgrace," Baker said as he concluded his selection pitch.
Mr. Bush was ready to render his decision. "So what you're saying, Jim, is that we have a short list of one?"
"That's right, Sir."
"Have you spoken to Giuliani about any of this?"
"Yes, in fact, he's right outside the door to the Oval Office, walking around the Rose Garden."
"I reckon he'll soon be measuring the drapes in this very room," Mr. Bush interjected in a moment of lightheartedness.
"Okay, I get it. One last question, Jim. Who else knows about this? Have you told my father?"
"Anybody in the Republican Party leadership?"
"You mean, they'd all be surprised?"
"Yes, Sir, they definitely would."
"Okay, I tell you what, let's announce it — right here and now. Let's call the networks to tell them that we are interrupting their regularly scheduled programming because of an important announcement from the White House."
"I think we can have it done in one hour, Mr. President." Baker stated confidently. "And, by the way, I have already drawn up a little speech for you, announcing Cheney's resignation — and then, carefully, ever so carefully, letting out the big one, the announcement that Rudy Giuliani will be his successor."
"Wonderful," the President said excitedly. "I always knew I could count on you, Jim. I'll go upstairs to get dressed properly for the occasion. Will you look after all the preparations down here for me, Jim?"
"It will be my pleasure, Mr. President."
"And it will be my great pleasure, Jim, to surprise the entire nation — and the world. Boy, do I want to see the surprise in my father's face when I announce this one — the Big One. Thanks, Jim, really many thanks."