Michael Moore, in his incendiary and controversial film collageof presidential ineptitude, begins with the voiced-over question,”Was it all just a dream?” Will liberals, progressives andDemocrats be asking themselves this on November 3? Or will they beasking it much earlier, as Dick Cheney waves good-bye before theelection and recedes into a sunset blaming “poor health”?
There has been a lot of “chatter” about Vice-President Cheney’seffect on the re-election hopes of George W. Bush and, byextension, the future of the neo-conservative Republicans. In amultitude of ways, Cheney has come to represent the angry, bitterside of the neo-conservative movement within the party. Theneo-cons, supported by wealthy executives and poor evangelicals whosteadfastly support a one-dimensional global vision ofmilitary-moral superiority (quite a paradox, indeed), are nowtossed in a mighty tempest. The normally stalwart, loyal and quietRepublican center is growing nervous. They are beginning to stage acounter insurgency within the party. Lead recently by former Sen.D’Amato (R-N.Y.), their rational “front” is the removal of DickCheney as vice-president.
The recent selection of John Edwards for the Democratic tickethas intensified the criticism of Cheney as media focus spotlightsthe role and necessity of the vice-president. Andrew Kohut, thedirector of the nonpartisan Pew poll, recently stated that Cheneyhas “become a lightning rod for criticism of Bush’s policies inIraq.”
Based on a recent Pew poll, there is no doubt left that amajority of voters view the current vice-president in negativeterms. Columnists such as Maureen Dowd of the New York Timesregularly mock Cheney as the real president running for election,excoriating him for his powerful sway in the Oval Office and forhow his sway always leads the way to war. And, of course, Cheney’snotorious “go fuck yourself” to Sen. Patrick Leahy, is, dependingwho you ask, a brilliant or blinding moment in senatorial rhetoric.Cheney’s public epithet revealed a splintering of the publicimagery the Bush administration has successfully fostered: toughbut tender uncles taking care of the civilized world.
The Bush administration may not win this election.
Six months ago, that would have been met with guffaws from allcorners of the political map. Today, however, the ongoing conflictin Iraq, a sputtering economy, attack-umentaries, disenchantedmoderate Republicans and Kerry.com fundraising prowess has all theingredients of a defeat for Bush. In similar fashion to all theother presidential statements of the last few months, the presidentvows not to waiver in his support of Cheney, the “man who could bepresident.”
Yet, the opportunity to waiver has presented itself in apolitically poetic way. Dick Cheney’s internist, one of the teamwho continually chimes on with ringing endorsements of Cheney’shealth, resigned because of an addiction to prescription drugs.Insert Scott McClellan, press secretary: “His assessments may nothave been the most accurate. Cheney’s health may be more of aconcern than was previously noted.” The concern for Cheney’s healthmay be the window of opportunity for George W. Bush to renegotiatehis presidential deal with the U.S. public and it can beinterpreted as a painful apology without admittedly doing so(something that is anathema to this president).
What follows could be a real Republican “revolution” because themost obvious replacement would be Colin Powell. This would benothing less than a political earthquake, dominating mediacoverage, complicating the efforts of the black community (who aresupporting Kerry more than Gore in 2000) and painting theRepublican convention in the compassionate colors of race andethnicity that haunt Bush’s policy efforts, despite the colors ofhis cabinet. More than that, the Democrats would be forcefullydetached from the agenda they inexorably argue for – the social andcivil splendor of minority representation. Yet, despite theDemocrats’ loyal rhetoric to this effect, their centrist policiesof welfare reform, politically expedient support for the Iraq warand the all-white Kerry campaign have left a hole in the heart ofthe party. George W. Bush and Karl Rove may find this hole tootempting not to fill.
Colin Powell, though, may be so disenchanted that he willabandon Bush after this election regardless of a vice-presidentialjob offer. That would leave one other politically savvy,intelligent and dedicated person for the job. This person wouldredefine the constituencies of both parties and upend the story ofU.S. government while reshaping the tone and tenor of everysuccessive debate. This may be the biggest fear of both parties,especially the Democrats. Her name is Condoleeza Rice and she maybe your vice-president.