Cheny will retire after 2006 elections
The response to my prior post on President Bush's opportunity has surprised me somewhat. Instead of confronting the central idea -- the drastic third step of resignation for the sake of making his VP the incumbent -- most saw the first step of Cheney resigning as the stumbling block. To me this is missing-the-forest-for-the-trees thinking.
I know this is an idea that has been floated since 2000 -- that Cheney is a "political anchor" or is "dirty" or "too unhealthy to serve" and "should resign". It is an idea that is popular with those on the right and the left. They have all been fantasies. The anchor and dirty arguments are silly and not worthy of discussion. The Vice-President's ethics and power/importance are inarguable. The health situation, on the other hand, is a valid point of discussion. It has not been particularly important, however, for most of Bush's term because there simply was no way short of a near-death experience that Cheney was going to step down -- between 9/11, the War on Terror, economic issues, political wrangling with the undisciplined Senate, and apparently uncontrollable intelligence leaks, the Vice-President has been too important a figure to Bush's presidency.
Things are changing. Iraq is being stabilized. We are winning the GWoT. The economy is booming. The Senate is the Senate; until the voters reset that board it's a wash. The intelligence leaks are being handled. We are now in the midst of the beginning of the campaign season for 2006.
Once the elections are over, his health concerns are going to override his commitment to the duties of the Vice President. Consider:
In 2006 he will be 65 (66 in January 2007). Given the assumption that Iraq will be more stable as time goes by and that Iran/Israel don't get particularly stupid with each other, combined with Bush's lame-duckness after the 2006 elections, I believe Cheney will determine that his role will be less crucial in 2007 and beyond.
Medically, he has some sort of atherosclerotic condition (can't remember exactly which one), but he has had 4 heart attacks beginning in 1978 (at age 37), in 1984, 1988, and 2001. He underwent four-vessel coronary artery bypass grafting in 1988, coronary artery stenting in November 2000, and urgent coronary balloon angioplasty in March 2001. In 2001 a cardiac defibrillator was implanted in his chest. In September 2005, Cheney had a catheter treatment in the artery behind each knee. The condition was discovered at a regular physical in July, and, while not life-threatening itself, is likely an indicator that Cheney's atherosclerotic disease is progressing despite aggressive treatment.
He will be 65 or 66, with a history of declining arterial health, knowing that his president can probably do without him for the last year or so of his term. He will want to spend time with his family, knowing that he served his country well.
That is not a fantasy. The man is getting older, with a failing cardiovascular system, and there will be little they will be able to accomplish after 2006, and little need for the president to lean on him so heavily. Any other qualified person at that point can and will do just as well for the president in the role of VP. These are the facts, and the smart men at the top are aware of it.
I don't *want* him to leave. But he will. And when it happens I will be linking back to both these articles. Condoleezza Rice will be nominated to replace him, and 2 of my steps will have come to fruition.