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The Expected Fall


Oh, let’s cut straight to the question at hand, shall we? The one that’s being alluded to, ever so politely, by reporters and commentators looking at the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson/Judith Miller/Karl Rove/Lewis Libby mess and talking about Vice President Dick Cheney being “hurt politically.”
This is what they mean: Who’s going to be the next vice president of the United States?
My money’s on Condi Rice.
The president likes her, he feels comfortable with her and her work. She’s served him well. Oh, and she’s a black woman. No better way to erase the tincture of scandal – especially one as big as this – than a history-making appointment. It’ll stop the Democrats cold for another 10 years.
It took a while – and honestly, I still can’t believe it – but the leaking of Ms. Plame, or Mrs. Wilson’s, name to the press has turned into one bit stinking scandal and it’s got nice long legs. You can believe – as Keith Olberman outlined last night – that the whole thing was an accident. That Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, didn’t know Plame/Wilson was undercover and that they’ve broken the law trying to cover up their leaks to avoid being accused of breaking the law. Or you can believe that Cheney – who heads the retribution and payback division of the embittered wing of Republican Party (the “Nixon was framed” crowd) – didn’t much give a damn what he had to do to discredit Wilson. That’s the road that Maureen Dowd seems headed down – which could, in turn, be enough to keep her from continuing to think about retiring.
Or you can just think – as more and more Americans will as they see the indictments coming – that the whole White House stinks to high heaven and that the indictments in the Plame Affair are just more proof that this is a Keystone Kop White House that was – and remains – more anxious to go to war with Iraq than it was to do absolutely anything else.
Libby and Rove are so high up on the White House food chain that their indictments and arraignments will make it impossible to avoid allegations and nasty questions about how we came to invade Iraqi, wasted 2,000 American lives, killed countless Iraqi, ignored real threats to international security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, found ourselves unable to respond to a much-anticipated natural disaster and plunged the U.S. into trillions of dollars in debt. That won’t be stopped with the firing of two rather colorless guys who have never held elected office.
Someone – many people – are going to pay for this. And the president is not one of those people. As Josh Trevino pointed out here earlier in the week, George W. Bush likes being president. And he’s got the power – political and otherwise – to make sure that he keeps the gig.
On top of that, 200-some Republicans in Congress – who like being Congressmen and Senators – are going to squeeze very, very hard to see that their party remains politically credible until November, 2006.

So someone’s gonna take the fall here.
Cheney makes the most sense and has for years. Remember all those election-year scenarios where Democrats would huddle in little groups and wonder who Bush would appoint as Veep once Cheney – who has heart disease – become too ill to hold the post? The speculation, of course, was that Rove – who Democrats demonize to justify their own political incompetence – would figure out who would make the next best Republican president and go from there.
The Bush family – that’s Poppy and Bar – will undoubtedly weigh in on this one; they’ve been chomping at the bit for a while now. How else do you explain that nicely timed piece in The New Yorker – not the Weekly Standard – where long-time Bush associate Brent Scowcroft denounces Cheney?
So Cheney goes back to his “undisclosed” location and Condi, a long-time family loyalist, stays and maybe, just maybe, Colin Powell – or that firm-minded Mr. Wilkerson who has been dissing Cheney in detail and in public – comes back for an encore cameo as the man who can fix things. Powell, too, is another family loyalist.
This administration has three years – a political lifetime – left to run. It can’t limp along with its current roster and hope to accomplish anything.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 4:58 PM | Permalink

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