Dumping Dick Cheney

OK, I'm going to keep doing this until I get it right.

In May, 2004, in my column in The Hill, I predicted that Vice President Dick Cheney would not be President Bush's running mate in November. I based my assumption that there wouldn't be a Bush-Cheney ticket that fall on three reasons, all having to do with Cheney's health.

I pointed out that the then-63-year-old Cheney had suffered four heart attacks since 1978 and had quadruple artery bypass surgery in 1988 (I know something about this, having undergone quintuple bypass surgery and an artificial aortic valve implant at the age of 66 in 1999), and that he had an angioplasty to reopen a clogged artery in November, 2000, followed by a battery-powered device called a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in his chest in June 2001.

I wrote that, while there was no evidence that Cheney's defibrillator had ever been activated by administering shocks straight to the heart to correct any problems, there was also no proof that it hadn't. And I cited a little-noticed report in the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance Star newspaper the previous month that Cheney was suddenly taken to a local hospital from his nearby secret undisclosed located, just before leaving for a trip to Asia.

I called the reporter who wrote the story, which Cheney's office refused to comment on, and he said, "I could get no official confirmation, but unofficially, I was told by three different sources that Cheney was there under an assumed name. That's why the hospital said they had no record of his being there."

Obviously, I was wrong about President Bush dumping Cheney then. But now, with Cheney preparing for another trip to Japan later this month, I'm predicting that he will soon be replaced by Bush.

Why do I go against the sage advice I once received from Theodore H. White, author of the "Making of the President" series of presidential campaign chronicles, who counseled me to always report what is happening and never try to predict what will happen?"

Because I'm convinced that Cheney has become such a liability that Bush would be crazy not to replace him. There's the Scooter Libby trial, which is close to metastacizing into a cancer that could send one of Cheney's closest advisers to jail, but also implicate Bush's so-called "brain," Karl Rove. And there's Cheney's Agnew-like behavior in dismissing critics of Bush's Iraq war strategy as "hogwash" and insisting that things are going so well in Iraq that we're on the verge of victory.

Cheney's upbeat attiutde toward Iraq is in sharp contrast to Bush's more realistic assessment of the problems that we face there, and it appears he is becoming more and more isolated in the Bush camp. He spoke to the Senate Republican caucus on Tuesday, which presented him with cake on his 66th birthday, but several senators I spoke to afterwards indicated that he heard some caustic criticism for his cheerleading of the war as well. A grim-faced Cheney swept past reporters without taking any questions, as usual.

It was reminiscent of the criticism that Vice President Hubert Humphrey heard from Democratic senators as the war in Vietnam lbecame increasingly unpopular with their constituents. Greg Mitchell, a columnist for Editor and Publisher, the trade magazine of the newspaper industry, said Cheney's recent combative interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and his later interview with Newsweek stating that Bush's State of the Union address had shored up his public standing were "delusional," and reminded him of the equally delusional statements of "Baghdad Bob," Saddam Hussein's minister of information who insisted that American invaders were being repulsed by Saddam's Republican Guard, even while U.S. troops were overrunning Baghdad.

Cheney's scowling visage is becoming an embarrassment to Bush. I'm betting that he will ask Cheney to step aside before long for Arizona Sen. John McCain, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or even Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuilani, thus instantly boosting his dismal standings in the public approval polls and breathing new life into a presidency that now seems on life support.

I could be wrong, as I was before, but I could also be right.