[eDebate] dump spiro cheney talk
Fri Nov 7 19:51:32 CST 2003
karl rove's call but will he himself get dragged into a daily frontpage barrage by a
Has Cheney Turned Into a Liability?
Iraq and domestic failures might cost him a place on the 2004 ticket.
By Mary Lynn F. Jones and Thomas F. Schaller, Mary Lynn F. Jones covers Congress for
the Hill newspaper in Washington. Thomas F. Schaller is a political scientist at the
University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Is Vice President Dick Cheney an electoral liability for President Bush? Some top
Republicans are reportedly worried that Cheney's actions might threaten Bush's bid for
reelection in 2004.
The dump-Cheney talk probably originated with disgruntled State Department folks,
who would like nothing better than to undermine the neocon foreign policy cabal
headed by Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The movement's
underlying premise is that the vice president's hawkish positions and statements related
to terrorism, Iraq and foreign policy have put Bush at risk.
But even as more Republicans criticize the handling of postwar Iraq, international
issues are only half the story. Another problem is Cheney's failed stewardship of the
administration's domestic agenda in Congress, which also leaves the president
vulnerable next year.
Cheney is the administration's chief legislative officer, responsible for shepherding its
priorities through Congress. He's a regular presence at the weekly Senate Republican
policy lunches. He also is the first vice president to maintain offices in both chambers.
As a former House minority whip, Cheney is surpassed by few in knowing what makes
the institution run.
Despite Cheney's unprecedented ties to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,
Congress has publicly rebuffed the administration on a series of legislative matters.
Barring late reversals, the White House defeats will include changes in overtime
regulations, the FCC's ruling on media consolidation and the end of the travel ban to
Cuba, despite veto threats from the president.
Other bills, such as Washington, D.C., school vouchers s and Head Start funding, have
passed the House by a single vote. Several judicial nominees, such as Charles Pickering,
have yet to win Senate confirmation.
Cheney's role in pushing the administration's agenda isn't likely to get any easier.
Heading into 2004, all House members and one-third of the Senate are up for
reelection. Although they want a second Bush term, they've got their own reelections to
think about. As Cheney's batting average on Capitol Hill drops, moderate Republicans
are straying from the White House line. Even reliable members of the GOP caucus are
abandoning ship on issues such as the Cuba bill. When that happens, the White House
knows it's in trouble. Of course, not all of the fault lies with Cheney. The White House
dispatches other advisors to make its case on Capitol Hill. Party leaders such as Bill Frist
in the Senate and Tom DeLay in the House share the blame.
But Cheney's own actions have made him an unusually inviting target. He snubbed
Congress and the General Accounting Office by refusing to answer questions about his
energy task force. The panel, which came under fire for meeting with industry groups,
helped shape the administration's energy agenda. The uncontested bid by Cheney's
former employer, Halliburton, to restore Iraq's oil industry left a bad taste in the mouths
of lawmakers whose districts contained other energy companies. Democrats have
attacked Cheney's nearly $500,000 in deferred compensation from Halliburton.
The vice president's experience in Washington was supposed to balance Bush's lack of
expertise in that area. If Cheney, who was elected six times to Congress, can't hold
together a GOP Congress for a Republican president, perhaps Bush needs to tap
someone else for the job.
In the campaign, Bush needs to be able to point to accomplishments other than his
management of Iraq, especially if the death toll continues to rise and his approval
ratings continue to drop. With Cheney focusing so much of his attention on terrorism
and Iraq, perhaps the vice president has lost sight of Bush's legislative agenda. If so,
Cheney may prove to be a bigger domestic liability to Bush than he is a foreign policy
burden. Bush will have to decide whether he can afford both worries.
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