By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The sudden re-emergence on the political scene of former Vice President Dick Cheney is somewhat puzzling. Why would a man who has occupied positions of authority in Congress and the White House, been a success in business, and has a wife who works outside the home want to re-enter the arena when he didn't have to? Could it be that he is testing the waters for a 2012 run for the Republican presidential nomination?
Admittedly it would be a tough row to hoe but, looking around, who else have the Republicans at the moment got?
Having been the chief of staff in the Ford White House, the Republican Conference chairman and—for a brief time—whip in the House of Representatives, United States secretary of defense, CEO of Halliburton, and, finally, vice president for eight years, Cheney has an impressive record of experience that no one else can match. And, because he has dealt—more or less successfully—with economic, social, and foreign policy matters and was never considered a part of the so-called Christian Right, Cheney would unify and perhaps re-energize the Reagan coalition in ways that few if any of the potential GOP candidates could. As several conservative activist types with whom I spoke agreed, "He's solid on all the issues." And every time he goes on television lately, his approval numbers go up.
A Cheney 2012 White House bid is an intriguing prospect, and also a highly unlikely one.
Former Cheney White House aide Cesar Conda says he has the distinct impression the former vice president is "permanently retired from political office." But, musing on the hypothetical, Conda says, "Cheney would be driven by principles, not by polling data." And, against President Barack Obama, "He'd be the anti-politician running against a master politician and communicator."
Further, says Conda, "Cheney would run as an unabashed economic and national security conservative—an experienced grown-up who would be for lower tax rates, more economic freedom, and a strong national defense. On social issues, he's solidly pro-life, but believes same-sex marriage is an issue best left to the states, which as you say could give him broadened appeal."
But whether or not he could win, and not one person I spoke with thought he could, would depend heavily on the state of the economy, what is happening on the national security front, and whether or not terrorism had returned to U.S. shores.
So, if he's not running for president, why is he back on the Sunday shows, making a forceful case for the policies of the past eight years and showing more leadership than the many Republican elected officials who are wilting under the onslaught of the Obamacrats? Perhaps it really is just about setting the record straight, as one senior GOP official told me. "He's not thinking about running for president," the official told me. "He just got fed up with Obama getting a free ride criticizing what has been a spectacular and successful defense of the country for seven years."
As the Wall Street Journal's John Fund put it, the only reason Cheney "is able to be forthcoming is because he is not running for office," which is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs. Only the politicians who aren't running for office can speak with force and conviction. It is, after all, highly unlikely that Cheney would ever again attempt to climb, as Disraeli put it, "to the top of the greasy pole." It is unlikely, but not impossible, to overcome the tremendous negatives, to use the political term, he amassed while vice president. But it's an interesting idea.
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