The start of the holiday shopping season last week made me wonder what present Vice President Cheney could give President Bush for Christmas. Maybe Cheney could take Bush to Texas for a hunting trip. I could just visualize the present – airplane tickets and buckshot neatly wrapped inside the pocket of a new hunting vest.
Then I realized that even the president is smart enough to know the most likely result of such a trip would be a wound on his face worse than the one he received in the legendary pretzel-choking incident.
Alternatively, I thought Cheney could buy Bush an Xbox 360 with a subscription for the Xbox Live Gold membership. That way, Bush could do something he has not done in a long time: talk to the American people without filters. He could even invite Cheney and President Clinton over for a Call of Duty marathon – bringing all three men the closest to combat they have ever been.
Then again, given his hunting abilities, Cheney would have a hard time finding a side in a team battle.
In all seriousness, though, the best present Cheney could give Bush this Christmas is his letter of resignation. With Donald Rumsfeld resigning as secretary of defense and Paul Wolfowitz firmly ensconced as president of the World Bank, Cheney is all that remains of the neo-con brain trust from the original administration. With Bush signaling in no uncertain terms that he is willing to change his Iraq policy, now is the opportune time for Cheney to exit.
From the summer of 2000, when Bush chose him as his running mate, Cheney understood that his role was to serve as a trusted adviser to a man who did not understand Washington. Following Sept. 11, Bush relied heavily on Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to craft America’s response to global terrorism. That strategy, so widely accepted at first, is now threatening to ruin Bush’s legacy. If Bush has any chance of earning a favorable place in history, he must remove all those responsible for the mistakes made in planning and executing the war on terror.
Cheney’s resignation would also have the added bonus of neutralizing some of the upcoming congressional investigations into Halliburton’s alleged war profiteering. Democrats have been crying foul about the no-bid contracts handed out to Halliburton – Cheney’s old company – since the United States invaded Iraq, but they never had the investigative power to prove it. That all changes this January. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will chair the House Government Reform Committee next term, and you can be certain he will expose any ties between the administration and Halliburton. If Cheney is relieved of his duties before the investigations come to a head, he can take full responsibility for the corruption and, ideally, save Bush from further investigations.
With Cheney safely out of public life, Bush can appoint Sen. John McCain to succeed him. Six years ago, McCain ruled out becoming Bush’s running mate after losing to him in the primaries. In 2004, McCain rejected Sen. John Kerry’s recruitment effort for a joint ticket. Now a two-year stint as Bush’s vice president has to look appealing to both the maverick senator and the stubborn cowboy.
Accepting the VP job gets McCain out of a Democrat-controlled Senate, protecting him from having to vote on wedge issues in an election year. McCain would also enjoy the institutional perks that come with being the sitting vice president in a replacement election year: traveling the country on the taxpayers’ dime, garnering limitless press exposure and becoming the undisputed front-runner. However, if McCain is to earn the 2008 nomination, he will have to kiss major evangelical ass, and I am not sure his mouth is big enough. Bush, on the other hand, is tremendously popular with evangelical Christians, and his endorsement could go a long way to easing the concerns evangelicals have with McCain while delivering a war chest of money from donors that McCain covets.
In exchange for the endorsement and political cover, Bush could return to his original campaign promise of being a “uniter and not a divider” by using McCain to foster bipartisan cooperation on immigration reform. Besides Bush, McCain is the most ardent Republican supporter of a guest-worker program and a sensible assimilation policy for the illegal immigrants already in the United States. Neither man wants to see the Republican Party lose the Hispanic vote the way it did the black vote, and therefore both are committed to facing the political ramifications of ignoring objections on their law-and-order right flank.
Then again, Cheney could just give Bush what they both deserve – a lump of coal.
John Stiglich is a an LSA senior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.