The Cheney Fallout

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 17, 2006; 10:40 AM

So all the people who don't like Vice President Cheney or Fox say it was a terrible interview and how dare he talk only to Brit, and all the people who like Cheney and Fox say it was a perfectly good interview and why doesn't the angry and petulant press corps get off the veep's back over this regrettable accident?

No surprise there.

President Bush came out yesterday and said that his No. 2 handled the aftermath just fine.

No surprise there.

Cheney defenders are trying to make the White House press corps the issue, saying they're just throwing a collective hissy fit, and Cheney critics are accusing him of arrogance and whispering about a cover-up.

No shocking news there either.

What did surprise me was this Peggy Noonan column in the Wall Street Journal. She, after all, is a former Reagan and Bush White House speechwriter who took a leave in 2004 to work for the president's reelection. But here she is putting into play the question of not only whether Cheney is damaged goods but whether he might have to pack his bags:

"The Dick Cheney shooting incident will, in a way, go away. And, in a way, not--ever. Some things stick. Gerry Ford had physically stumbled only once or twice in public when he became, officially, The Stumbler. Mr. Ford's stumbles seemed to underscore a certain lack of sure-footedness in his early policies and other decisions. The same with Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit. At the time Mr. Carter told the story of a wild rabbit attacking his boat he had already come to be seen by half the country as weak and unlucky. Even bunnies took him on . . .

"I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, 'If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president?' They're thinking, 'At some time down the road we may wind up thinking about a new plan.' And one night over drinks at a barbecue in McLean one top guy will turn to another top guy and say, 'Under the never permeable and never porous Dome of Silence, tell me . . . wouldn't you like to replace Cheney?'

"Why would they be thinking about this? It's not the shooting incident itself, it's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now. Halliburton, energy meetings, Libby, Plamegate. This was not all bad for the White House: Mr. Cheney took the heat that would otherwise have been turned solely on George Bush. So he had utility, and he's experienced and talented and organized, and Mr. Bush admires and respects him. But, at a certain point a hate magnet can draw so much hate you don't want to hold it in your hand anymore, you want to drop it, and pick up something else. Is this fair? Nah. But fair has nothing to do with it."

Personally, I doubt Cheney's going anywhere, any more than Bush's father dumped Quayle from the ticket. But now Noonan has put into play, or at least into print, the idea that Bush might try to anoint his successor by naming a new veep.

With no other hard news on the subject, Bush backing Cheney is the day's story:


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