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Will Cheney step aside?

“He’s lost some of his confidence in the three people he listens to the most. The problem is that the President doesn’t want to make changes.”

— unnamed White House adviser in Time article

The Chimp is pissed at Rove, Andrew Card, and Darth these days. With a Libby trial, it’s almost certain the VP will be called to the stand, and the beans will be spilled on the lies and deception regarding the run-up to the Iraq war. Drudge blares on front page: “Prosecutor plans on calling Cheney as witness in open court; executive privilege fight looms.” What’s a Chimperor to do?

The prospect of Cheney stepping down to “remove” the noise distracting the White House could be a viable option, given that “unnamed sources” speaking to Time this week are squawking about the falling out between the Chimp and Darth. (via Raw Story):

As for Cheney, who retained Libby as the scandal unfolded and did not follow the advice of some to move him out five months ago, his relationship with Bush has suffered “a strain, not a rupture,” says a presidential adviser. That much was clear when the White House let it be known that Card had called Cheney to inform him of the choice of Miers. In earlier times, he would have been intimately involved in such a decision.

Cheney’s standing has suffered mainly because Libby emerges as such a liability. Fitzgerald threw the book at him not for anything he said to reporters but for what he said to the FBI and the grand jury. The indictments suggest that the aide whose aim was to spin the war might have tried to spin the prosecutor. “Lying was a remarkable act of stupidity on Libby’s part,” says Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean. “He’s old enough to know better. He watched Watergate and Iran-contra. To try to pull the leg of the grand jury was really quite remarkable.”

Heck, you know there must be talk about big shifts on the Cheney front behind closed doors if his homo daughter is getting the heck out of Dodge, landing a cushy deal at same-sex spousal friendly AOL last week. Daddy’s in trouble and it makes sense for her to escape to the private sector now.

The theory that Cheney could vacate the VP chair is not just whispers in back rooms, Christine Todd Whitman puts forth the option in today’s NYT article, In Indictment’s Wake, a Focus on Cheney’s Powerful Role:

Christie Whitman, the president’s former E.P.A. administrator and a longtime Bush family friend who was critical of the White House and the Republican right wing in a recent book, said that she did not expect the president’s personal relationship with Mr. Cheney to change. Nonetheless, Ms. Whitman said she believed that if more information about Mr. Cheney’s involvement in the leak case became public, “and if it keeps hanging around and getting close to the vice president, he might step aside – but that’s an extreme case.”

Plus, Cheney’s got a good fig leaf for stepping down. He’s looking pretty death’s door ill these days, and NY Congressman Charlie Rangel hasn’t held back, saying Darth’s not up to the job anymore.

“Sometimes I don’t even think Cheney is awake enough to know what’s going on,” Rangel (D-Harlem) said during an interview on New York 1 last night. “[Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld is the guy in Washington to watch. He’s running the country,” Rangel added.

“He’s a sick man, you know,” Rangel said of Cheney, prompting host Davidson Golden to point out that the vice president suffers from heart disease. Rangel retorted, “He’s got heart disease, but the disease is not restricted just to that part of his body. He grunts a lot, so you never really know what he’s thinking.” Asked whether he thinks Cheney is healthy enough to do the job, Rangel said, “Why do you think people are spending so much time praying for President Bush’s health?

After all, how long can he hang around and try to clean up the “dry” drunk Chimperor’s mess without having a fifth or sixth heart attack? Then again, maybe Darth’s ticker has already been acting up.

In June, Arianna Huffington was in Vail, Colorado when the VP came into town, and noted that Dick Cheney was wheeled into the hospital, allegedly for his bum knee, but was serviced in the cardiac unit…hmmm. Managed care is getting mighty confusing, huh?

Why is the White House still insisting that the only health issue Vice President Cheney dealt with today is an old football injury to his knee, visiting renowned orthopedist Dr. Richard Steadman? At the Vail Valley Institute dinner tonight, I kept asking what those in the know here knew. Little by little, here is the story I pieced together: After the Secret Service secured the Vail Valley Medical Center, including the parking lot, the Vice President arrived under his own power and checked in at the orthopedic center under the name “Dr. Hoffman”. He was immediately whisked to the adjacent cardiac unit, suffering from what was described to me as “an angina attack”. The security was so high that a Secret Service agent wouldn’t let an ER nurse out of the bathroom that she had gone into just before the Veep arrived. “Get back in there,” the agent told her. Confounded, she called her husband on her cell phone, telling him “something big” was going on. And indeed it was… but you wouldn’t know it from the White House. It appears that not only doesn’t the public deserve to know what is really going on in Iraq (“last throes”?) we don’t deserve to know what is going on with our Vice President’s health.

The man’s only had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties, surgery to remove blood clots behind each of his knees and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest. It’s perfect cover — Cheney can step aside, saying it’s time to smell the roses, testify a little and retire with his defibrillator intact and “unused.”

Also see:
* Indictment Dissected: Cheney’s Role (Think Progress)
* “Bush losing faith in Cheney, top aides
* “Calls for White House shakeup focus on Karl Rove

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding