Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Giuliani rumor
Along with the morning-after New Hampshire analyses, I became aware of a new rumor yesterday. I think it’s older than that, but yesterday is when I noticed it. Some people are speculating that the Bush might dump Cheney and take on Giuliani as his VP sometime before the election. Tristero just wants to run screaming into traffic. Jesse and Ezra at Pandagon had a short discussion about it. Jesse thinks it’s unlikely, but Ezra thinks the danger is real (the posts are here, here, and here the comments are good on all three posts).
I think Ezra overstates how bad it would be:
[T]here is almost certainly discussion underway on whether or not to axe Cheney. From a political point of view, it makes a lot of sense. Get rid of him and you get rid of the guy who is believed to be the puppet master, the ideologue, the one who got us into Iraq, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if he takes tacit blame for a number of mistakes (he's also the villain in O'Neill's recent book) and then exits stage right, taking criticisms with him. A tearful farewell at the Republican convention coupled with the surprise announcement of Rudy as VP would be political dynamite for Bush and a disaster for the Democrats.

Yes, there would be some advantage to letting Cheney take the fall for some of the administration’s failures and yes, there would be some advantage to taking “America’s Mayor” onboard. It would certainly raise the stakes on their schlock extravaganza that they intend to hold during the party convention/911 anniversary/WTC memorial dedication. Perhaps they think “America’s Mayor” can trump the presence of a half million protestors. But I think there would be downsides to both parts of that equation.

If Cheney was going to take the blame for anything, the administration would first have to admit that they might have done some things wrong and that would open up a discussion that they really don’t want to have just before the election.

Even if they just gracefully retire Cheney for “health reasons” and replace him with Giuliani, they need to remember that Giuliani had huge negatives before 9/11. They can’t count on the warm glow of his last days in the public eye continuing. All of his previous career would be dragged out for examination. He didn’t just annoy liberals like you and me; he also had some very devoted enemies to his right. When Giuliani was at the Justice Department he was the one who kept the fire under the feet of the FBI agents who tracked down and killed Posse Comitatus martyr Gordon Kahl. The Militia/Patriot/Identity Christian nuts that the administration has been quietly winking at would go nuts over him joining the ticket (and I don’t mean the good “oh-boy” kind of nuts). Except for law and order, he was pretty much a moderate on most issues. He is on record as pro-choice. He has marched in gay pride parades. He had a very public, very ugly divorce. How will all of that go over with the religious right?

And there is Giuliani himself. He has a bit of an ego. How well could he play second banana and pretend like he has seen the light about how wrong he was in his past opinions? The main bribe that the GOP could offer is that he would be the anointed candidate in 2008. But he has plenty of reason to believe that he is already in that position without debasing himself for four years.

None of this means that this deal is or is not in the works. I but it does mean that it is neither inevitable, I think many Republicans will have doubts about the idea, or invulnerable, Rudy’s advantages and baggage balance out. We can beat him.

Afterthought: Many of the comments at Pandagon dismiss Giuliani because they assume Jeb will be the inheritor of the Bush dynasty. This is a boogey of the Left roughly equivalent to what Hillary is to the Right. I’m sure Jeb would like that, but I’ve seen nothing in George Jr. to suggest that he is willing to lift a finger to make it happen. Keep in mind the embarrassingly Oedipal way he keeps trying to trump his father’s legacy. Keep in mind that for many GOP strategists, Jeb was their first choice as Bush II and Junior was their second choice. Also keep in mind that Jeb’s failure to to deliver Florida in 2000 created the need for Baker and Scalia to come to the rescue and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over his entire term. This is one of the most vindictive and petty men to ever inhabit the White House. It’s more likely that George Jr. wants to be THE Bush and would rather never see another Bush in the White House than hand the keys to his brother on a silver platter. The Kennedys worked for the good of the family. George Jr. does not play well with others.

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