But now that Cheney's one-time chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has been found guilty of four of the five crimes with which he was charged, I really do wonder if Cheney might not become the third US Vice President to resign from that office.
The most recent, of course, was Richard Nixon's veep, Spiro Agnew. In October, 1973, Agnew made a nolo contendere plea to a number of bribery charges stemming from his tenure as Maryland governor. Simultaneously, he resigned the vice presidency. (Less than a year later, Nixon became the first President to resign from office for totally different corruptions.)
For some time now, Cheney has appeared to be trying to distance himself from the Libby trial, traveling to other parts of the world, ostensibly consumed with matters of state, just as Nixon did in his famous--and famously ill-advised--trip to Egypt in 1974. Like Nixon, Cheney may have risked his life with these junkets, as it has been learned that also like the thirty-seventh President, Cheney is suffering from blood clotting in his leg. The clotting makes walking painful and is potentially-life threatening.
Libby was, by all accounts, Dick Cheney's alter ego. There will thus be many questions asked about any association the Vice President may have had with Libby's crimes. A verion of Howard Baker's questions during the Watergate hearings, posed about Nixon, will be foremost among them:
- What did the Vice President know?
- When did he know it?
The most likely opponents of a Cheney resignation, at least in the short run, would be Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, frontrunners for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. They would be fearful that any new veep who gained popularity would be likely to sweep their cracks at the presidency aside, automatically becoming the frontrunner for Republicans next year. If Cheney is to resign, they will lobby for the President to nominate a Republican elder statesman for Vice President, someone like Richard Lugar or John Warner, people unlikely to run for the presidency themselves.
Democrats will also have reason not to see Cheney replaced, although like moths attracted to a flame, they may feel duty-bound to press for his resignation. They and the GOP candidates might be open to the nomination of someone like Chuck Hagel, a Republican with impeccable conservative credentials who nonetheless opposes the war in Iraq, to be nominated for the vice presidency.
The country at large would likely push for any quality nomination, appropriately heedless of 2008 politics. If vox populi gets the upper hand, the President might nominate a Democrat for the vice presidency. The one Mr. Bush would probably like is Joe Lieberman; but Democrats would howl at that. Another name that might get in the mix would be that of Fred Thompson, a figure whose popularity goes beyond politics, the one-time minority counsel for the Senate Watergate committee, and a close friend and ally of John McCain's who is unlikely to run for the presidency himself.
It's all speculation and wild speculation at that. But at 12:42PM, March 6, 2007, I think that it's far likelier that Dick Cheney will resign his office than it was just one hour ago. This could be Dick Cheney's Agnew moment.
[IN THE COMMENTS: One person says that there's a big difference between the crimes of Spiro Agnew and those of Scooter Libby. I respond:
The analogy I drew was not between Agnew's crime and that of Scooter Libby. The analogy is between the damage Agnew could have done to Nixon had he not resigned and the damage Cheney might cause Bush if he doesn't follow the same course.[THANKS TO: Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Pajamas Media, and Ron Coleman & David Nieporent for linking to this post.]
Had Agnew stayed on, a weakened Nixon White House would have confronted the question of whether it would expend its ever-depleting political capital on defending Agnew or cut him loose. The Bush White House may confront a similar moment with regard to Cheney. My point was political and historical.]
[THANKS ALSO TO: Michael McElroy of The New York Times political blog, The Caucus, for linking to this post.]
[THANKS TO: Indepundit for linking to this post.]
[THANKS TO: The Daily Briefing for linking to this post.]
[THANKS TO: Richard Hétu, New York correspondent for the French Canadian, La Presse, for linking to this post.]
[THANKS ALSO TO: Howard Kurtz, Media Notes columnist for The Washington Post, for linking to this post. And to Christopher Beam at Slate for doing the same.]
[FURTHER THANKS TO: Kiko's House and Memeorandum for linking here.]
[THANKS TOO, TO: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice for linking to this post.]