Interim VeepStakes

L.A. Times Editorial Calls for Cheney’s Ouster: A Los Angeles Times editorial Sunday called for a “far more audacious” makeover of President Bush’s administration, saying he should send Vice President Cheney into early retirement.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think President Cheney will allow this to happen.

But, just for the fun of it, let’s suppose that we wake up one day and for whatever reason we find ourselves de-Veeped. That raises two questions:

  • Who would Bush be most likely to appoint?
  • Who of the people Bush might conceivably appoint would be most politically destructive for the Democrats?

The media is already having a field day with the first question, and thinks the answer is Dr. Rice. But since I think that even if she were to become the Veep, I don’t think she’d run for President (or would be that hard to beat if she did), I don’t think that she is the answer to the second question.

The Democrats’ worst fear has to be the appointment of a viable Presidential candidate into the heir apparent role. Not only does this person get tons of free media and get to look more Presidential, but a new veep would get a leg up in the otherwise internecine primary fights.

So I think the answer to the second question is probably John McCain. It’s just conceivable Bush would pick him (they seem to have made some sort of deal in 2004). He would benefit the most from being anointed as the heir apparent, as it would allow him to drop his self-destructive run to the right. And a McCain who isn’t destroying himself, and doesn’t have to take full part in the rough-and-tumble of a primary (with the chances to lose one’s cool) would be a formidable candidate in 2008.

(I do note the Machiavellian argument that says Dr. Rice is the answer to the second question too, because that would ensure that Senator Clinton would become the Democratic nominee. I don’t quite buy it, but it worries me.)

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17 Responses to Interim VeepStakes

  1. Adam says:

    Any problem with the Prez firing an official the people voted for?

  2. paul says:

    I think rather than whom the president might select, the important thing to consider is what are the “qualifications” that Bush would look for in such a person. I think it isn’t enough that the person would be strong enough as a candidate to win in 2008 (that would lead me to say Rice is the one). But the real question is the person strong enough to fend off the investigations that will likely happen at some point over the next decade. Bush is in real peril after he leaves office.

    He and his staff face certain political danger at minimum if investigations aren’t quashed. If investigations are pursued and brought to conclusion he and they could face legal problems that would require someone to issue the pardons. And the biggest wildcard is that if it ever gets that far, what will stop Bush from becoming an international pariah unable to travel outside the borders of the US and subject to the international court.

    I don’t know if Rice has the stomach to be that latter person. Certainly of Cheney could be elected, he would be more than determined to hold the fort and I suspect he would do everything in modern medecine’s power to survive long enough to do it. Of course it is pretty unlikely he could be rehabilitated by 2008 to be an electable candidate.

    Bush’s options strike me as pretty limited. Cheney staying is in my mind the most likely outcome for two reasons 1) Bush can’t “fire” a vice president and 2) Cheney has no history of falling on his sword for anyone.

    But should the unlikely happen, Gonzales is in my mind the most likely candidate to be both viable in 2008 and willing to be the loyal Bush retainer who will continue the cover up even after Bush has left office – he has his own skin in this game after all. He would almost automatically inherit the VRWC-noise machine and more inportantly their money machine. And as a GOP latino, Gonzales would be attractive and right in line with the now all but destroyed (thanks to the mess they have made of the immigration issue) GOP effort to attract latinos.

    So my conclusions are:

    1 Cheney stays.

    2 – failing that Gonzales is the annointed VEEP – and even that is dependent on it happening before the mid-terms or that the Republicans keeping a substantial majority in the Senate after ’06. Because if Dems have any power nothing is going to make them consent to anyone Bush nominates – epsecially if after the mid-terms they have the Speakership in hand.

  3. wcw says:

    Not in the old days (recall Agnew), but as our host notes, Cheney is not the type to step down for the good of country, party or president. However, the man is in poor, poor health. If he leaves office, it’ll be by heart failure rather than by scripted resignation.

    Should he pass, I agree that McCain would be quite damaging, since his skills at public relations utterly at variance to fact rival Bush’s. However, despite the apparent 2004 deal, I don’t see it. Bush is infamously partial to “his” guys (viz. the Miers nomination), and McCain remains outside that group, unlike Rice.

    Bush senior might be smart enough to appoint McCain, but all he’s managed so far is to push his man James Baker a little deeper into the Iraq planning morass, so despite the nominal similarity I don’t see another Baker-led palace coup a la Frank B. and St. Ronnie.

    My bet? Cheney makes it another decade on the amazing health care an ex-CEO in the new guilded age can buy.

  4. Seth Gordon says:

    What Adam said, above. Does the Constitution allow the President to fire the Veep?

    Also, consider the damage that Cheney could do to Bush and his loyalists if he ever spilled the beans to a grand jury. He’s really not someone that Bush can afford to offend.

  5. Michael says:

    The Constitution most definitely does not allow the President to fire the veep. The presumption is that most veeps would go if suitably incentivized by the President. (But see Nixon circa the Checkers speech.)

    The only means the constitution provides for de-Veeping are death, resignation, and impeachment. The 25th Amendment does not apply to the veep.

    Bonus question: if the Vice President is impeached, who presides at his trial in the Senate?

  6. Trick Question says:

    The Vice President, in his/her capacity as President of the Senate, would preside over his/her own impeachment trial. If s/he were to decline that duty, the President Pro Tempore, or his/her designee, would preside.

  7. Michael says:

    Ah, but suppose the Veep insists on presiding. Is this really constitutional? Does the constitution permit such an absurdity? For example, might one not read the Due Process clause as forbidding it?

  8. Trick Question says:

    The courts have historically stayed away from impeachment cases for justiciability reasons? (I’d offer some citations, but I can only take so long of a study break). That being the case, the Constitution says that the VP is the President of the Senate adn we’re stuck with that. You could have the world’s greatest DP case, but I don’t think you could get a court to hear it. The Senate could make its own rules concerning whether the VP can preside, but if the VP decides not to follow those rules, disciplining him would be the province of the chamber, and in this hypothetical any discipline probably wouldn’t do much good because s/he would still insist on presiding.

  9. Michael says:

    While it’s true that US v. Nixon (the judge, not the President) suggests there is no room for involvement by the courts at least some of the Justices seemed troubled (either in the opinion or at argument, I forget) about extreme cases, e.g. impeachment decided by a coin flip….

  10. Brett Bellmore says:

    Democratic suggestions that McCain would be hard to beat have a “don’t throw me in that briar patch!” feel to them; It’s not exactly a secret that McCain is starkly loathed by a large fraction of the Republican base. He might be able to secure the nomination in a divided field, (Though he couldn’t in 2000, even with all those Democratic crossover votes he can’t count on next time.) but he’d tank in the general election when the party activists decided they didn’t have a dog in THAT fight.

    And you’d be SO upset about that….

  11. Michael says:

    I was being straight given the parameters of the question. I don’t think that there is anyone Bush could conceivably pick who is more electable. I do agree that a McCain who survives primaries will be damaged goods and easy to beat. I also think that anyone to the right of him will be easy meat. If you think McCain is a disengenous answer to the problem posed above, I challenge you to come up with a better, plausbile, name.

    Of course, there are Republicans who might be more formidable candidates than McCain in the general election, but Bush will have no part of them for much the same reasons that they are unlikely to get through the primaries. (Hagel for example.)

  12. Brett Bellmore says:

    I can’t off hand think of anybody Bush would want to give a leg up, who could beat a good Democratic candidate. Bush is too at odds with his own party on a philosophical level to want to help along anybody his party’s base could be enthusiastic about, and such enthusiasm is one of the characteristics a good nominee must have. We’ve seen him in several races bringing his weight to bear against the grass roots challengers, in favor of people like Spector.

    The party establishment not only isn’t maintaining a good farm team, they’re eating their young.

    However, I don’t expect the Democratic party to come up with a good candidate. The Democratic party’s nominating process is as effective at filtering out people fit to be President as the Republican one is.

    Can the GOP come up with a nominee to beat whichever mediocrity (Probably Hillary) the Democrats nominate? Quite possibly: When incompetents colide, it’s a roll of the dice which will lose worse.

    Personally, I’d like to see Rice get the nomination, and think she’d fare better in the general election than McCain could. She actually seems to hold rational positions on many issues, a rarity in Presidential politics. Regrettably, she seems to be serious in her desire to not run, and a draft doesn’t seem likely to work.

  13. Don says:

    I think Bush might nominate McCain if McCain agreed to choose Jeb as his Veep. They’re certainly not interested in Frist. There’s already a good sized campaign against Giuliani by the religious right.

    Allen is the dark horse and I’m not sure who’s supporting him.

  14. Brett Bellmore says:

    Involving Jeb might unfairly hurt the ticket; (Unfairly because any ticket with McCain on it has better reasons to be hurt.) After two disappointing Presidents named “Bush”, Republicans scarcely want to risk making the same mistake a third time. However, that’s not to say that Bush might not be bought off by such a promise.

    However, one thing is clear: McCain is sufficiently unliked by Republicans that being given the VP slot a couple years in advance of the primary would NOT spare him a nomination battle.

  15. molly bloom says:

    Mcain as VP to replace Cheney? Three Words: Hubert Humphrey 1968. I don’t think taking the job will help McCain at all in his ambitions.

  16. cw says:

    My 2004 tin foil hat scenario was that Cheney would step down in ’05 or ’06 for health reasons, and Bush would appoint Jeb to help the family along.

    As Bush’s star wains, it seems less and less likely.

    Jeb’s been smart enough to foreswear interest in the ’08 race. But I still wouldn’t underestimate the Bush family’s willingness to put family first.

  17. Barry says:

    “Personally, I’d like to see Rice get the nomination, and think she’d fare better in the general election than McCain could. She actually seems to hold rational positions on many issues, a rarity in Presidential politics. Regrettably, she seems to be serious in her desire to not run, and a draft doesn’t seem likely to work.”

    Posted by Brett Bellmore

    Aside from being Bush’s loyal servant and advisor during the whole screwed-up administration, nothing irrational. She’s Bush’s dog; his positions are her positions.

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