Washington conspiracy theories?

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/15/po...rint&position=

    WASHINGTON, July 14 - In the annals of Washington conspiracy theories, the latest one, about Vice President Dick Cheney's future on the Republican ticket, is as ingenious as it is far-fetched. But that has not stopped it from racing through Republican and Democratic circles like the latest low-carb diet.
    The newest theory - advanced privately by prominent Democrats, including members of Congress - holds that Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush. The dismissed physician, Dr. Gary Malakoff, who four years ago declared that Mr. Cheney was "up to the task of the most sensitive public office" despite a history of heart disease, was dropped from Mr. Cheney's medical team because of an addiction to prescription drugs.

    "I don't know where they get all these conspiracy theories," said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's chief strategist, who has heard them all. "It's inside-the-Beltway coffee talk, is all it is."

    It may be inside the Beltway, but in recent days the Washington summer clamor about dropping Mr. Cheney has so greatly intensified that Mr. Cheney himself was forced to address it on Wednesday. Asked in a C-Span interview if he could envision any circumstances under which he would step aside, Mr. Cheney replied: "Well, no, I can't. If I thought that were appropriate, I certainly would."

    In the interview, to be broadcast Sunday, Mr. Cheney also said that Mr. Bush "has made very clear he doesn't want to break up the team," but that chatter of his stepping down was to be expected.

    "I suppose right now, because we're in the run-up to the convention, people don't have much to talk about so you get speculation on that," he said. "It's normal. When we get to the convention, I think that'll put an end to that." Who would replace Mr. Cheney has nonetheless became a favorite

    Washington guessing game, with the names of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Senator John McCain of Arizona whispered about the most. Never mind that neither has a particularly cordial relationship with Mr. Bush, and that neither has expressed interest in the job. Other names that keep popping up include Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

    There is also something of an under-the-radar campaign among Republicans promoting their friends for a job that may never come open. As an example, boosters of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, have long tried to toss his name in the mix, despite the fact that friends of the president say he would never pick Mr. Giuliani.

    The rumblings about Mr. Cheney are similar to those that plagued Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992, when Secretary of State James A. Baker III led efforts to push Mr. Quayle off the ticket. But the reasons are different.
    Mr. Quayle was seen as a bumbler who could not spell "potato," making him an easy target for Bill Clinton's campaign. Mr. Cheney, who has suffered four heart attacks, has faced persistent questions about his powerful role in promoting the war in Iraq and insisting that Saddam Hussein had unconventional weapons.

    But like Mr. Quayle, Mr. Cheney suffers from low approval ratings. Last month, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 21 percent of voters had a favorable impression of Mr. Cheney, compared with 39 percent for Mr. Bush.
    Democrats, as part of their campaign to discredit the competition, are energetically promoting the idea that Mr. Cheney is a drag on the ticket. But none of them are suggesting that Mr. Bush should drop him.

    "He has come to be a polarizing figure who repels voters," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Senator John Kerry. But asked if that did not make Mr. Cheney a dream candidate to run against, Mr. Devine demurred. "I'm not going to lob one in that direction," he said. "I don't want to be the Kerry guy who says 'We want Cheney.' "

    Republicans close to the Bush campaign say that the Democrats are using Mr. Cheney as a powerful way to attack Mr. Bush and undermine the White House. "When the Democrats attacked Dan Quayle, it didn't matter a lot," said Vin Weber, a former congressman who is the Bush campaign's chairman for the upper Midwest. "Nobody thought Dan Quayle was the president's most trusted adviser, with broad responsibilities. But Democrats understand that when you go after this vice president, you really go after the administration.''
    But even some Republicans are now questioning whether Mr. Cheney should stay on the ticket. As one House Republican said, conspiratorially, outside the House chamber this week, "Watch Cheney." Another Republican member of Congress said that Mr. Cheney was increasingly viewed as a political liability.

    "I don't think you fix the problem by changing the No. 2 horse, but Bush is facing so much heavy baggage going into November, he's going to have to throw some of that baggage off," said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    One recent contribution to the buzz about Mr. Cheney came Tuesday in a column by Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Stipulating that dumping a totally loyal, integral part of his inner circle is something that is absolutely not in George W. Bush's DNA, losing with plenty of notice does not appear to be part of his genetic makeup either," Mr. Cook wrote. He concluded that in an election year as close as this one, "the president badly needs something to shake this race up, and I can think of just one thing. Cheney may need to watch his back."

    Mr. Cook's column came less than a week after Alfonse M. D'Amato, the once-influential Republican senator from New York, said on the cable station NY1 that Mr. Bush should replace Mr. Cheney with Mr. Powell or Mr. McCain. Mr. D'Amato's motives have stirred speculation among New Yorkers, although some who know him well said that getting attention might have been primary among them. An assistant in Mr. D'Amato's office said Wednesday that he would have no further comment on the matter.

    Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said that Mr. D'Amato's comments had not thrown the White House into any evident frenzy. As Mr. King recounted it, he was recently at the White House with another member of Congress and had a brief conversation with Mr. Bush. The other member of Congress mentioned Mr. D'Amato's comments to Mr. Bush, Mr. King said, and Mr. Bush laughed.

    "He didn't seem concerned or angry," Mr. King said. "And then I said that Al is getting married on Sunday and he's got other things on his mind." Mr. Bush responded, Mr. King said, by saying, "Tell him the president wishes him well on his wedding day."
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  3. by   pickledpepperRN

    Who Could Replace Cheney?
    Jon E. Dougherty and NewsMax Staff
    Thursday, July 15, 2004

    There is a growing movement among Republicans that President Bush replace Dick Cheney for this November's ticket. If he were to make such decision, who could be George Bush's running mate?

    Washington sources tell NewsMax that for the moment, Bush has no plan to make the change. But the situation is fluid and during this most volatile of campaigns, that decision is not final.

    The Republican National Convention won't take place in New York City until Aug. 30 -- the drop date to make a normal transition.

    The final decision to keep or replace Cheney may come then, depending on how Bush is faring in the polls and if a change becomes a necessity.
    A Bush administration adviser says though the president is extremely loyal to Cheney, he must also be loyal to "common sense and the party."
    The point, the adviser noted, is to win the election. But he also noted - and this adviser has known Dick Cheney for three decades and likes him - says the ticket today is a "dead ticket."

    Noting that vice presidents have a high likelihood of eventually becoming the nation's chief executive, Bush could undermine a VP's chances in 2008 if he did not pick a running mate this year who could run in that race.
    No one believes, considering Dick Cheney's fragile health, he would be a viable candidate in 2008. Cheney himself says he won't run, describing his vice presidency as "my last job."

    One reason weighing against a change is that the mainstream media and the Democrats have complained about Dick Cheney - and have been touting his replacement.

    Indeed, Cheney's own selection as Bush's No. 2 was equally cryptic.
    Originally he was tapped to help Bush find a suitable running mate for the 2000 election, but the president-to-be surprised many when he actually named Cheney to the spot.

    And recently, the White House has dispelled reports Bush is considering a new veep. "Those rumors are ridiculous," spokesman Scott McClellan says.

    But Republicans may have been frazzled by Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry when he selected the young, articulate John Edwards.
    Bush while, in Edwards' home state of North Carolina to praise his second-in-command.

    One reporter typified the mainstream media's adoration for Edwards by telling Bush the junior North Carolina senator and millionaire former trial lawyer was being described as "charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy."
    The reporter then asked, "How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?"
    Bush shot back, "Dick Cheney can be president. Next?"
    But suppose Cheney's polling numbers got so bad as to seriously impede Bush's chances this fall?

    Or who would replace him if Cheney's health gave out?

    No one name immediately jumps to mind for many Americans, but there are some possibilities worthy of mention who could help - or hurt - President Bush's chances, should Cheney have to bow out for some reason.

    D'Amato Speaks
    Alphonse D'Amato, a former GOP senator from New York, said a day after Kerry made his VP selection Bush should drop Cheney, and offered up a pair of choices.
    His "first and foremost" choice is Secretary of State Colin Powell, because he "would help galvanize the nation and offer a truly historic opportunity for American unity and pride."

    Secondly, D'Amato suggested Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "a genuine American hero who would also help bridge the political divide in our nation and assure the president's re-election by a wide margin."

    "Let me note that Vice President Cheney is a decent, honorable, and patriotic American, a man of great intellect, who has served the president and the nation with dedication," D'Amato said in a statement. "But we should make no mistake, we are a nation at war with a vicious terrorist foe, and in war hard decisions must be made."
    The betting today is that George Bush keeps Dick Cheney.

    But already "if" raises some interesting scenarios. NewsMax recently surveyed the field of potential Cheney replacements - and possible presidential candidates in 2008.
    Here's what we found:

    George Pataki
    Currently the governor of New York, George Pataki, 59, is already being considered as a potential GOP candidate in the 2008 elections.
    Pataki is an ideal choice for vice president for several reasons.
    Though a Reagan Republican he has a winning record in one of the most liberal states in the union. He won his third term in 2002 by nearly three-quarters of a million votes.
    Pataki has also turned out to be one of the unsung heroes of Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks not only destroyed the World Trade Center towers, they devastated New York's economy.
    Mayor Giuliani offered charismatic leadership in the wake of Sept. 11 but was out of office just months later. Pataki has done the hard work in helping the state make a remarkable recovery.
    Another plus: Pataki is extremely popular with Hispanic and Jewish voters - constituencies the Republicans need to win nationwide.

    Rick Santorum
    Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is the third-ranking member on the GOP leadership ladder. At 46, he's young and has good conservative credentials. He is anti-abortion, has a decent record regarding border issues since the 9/11 attacks, and comes from a battleground state which Al Gore only narrowly won in 2000.
    Santorum also may have done Bush a favor in stumping with the president in support of Santorum's Pennsylvania colleague, Sen. Arlen Specter, when the latter faced a formidable primary challenge from conservative Rep. Pat Toomey earlier this year.

    Tom Ridge
    Another Pennsylvanian, former governor of the state Tom Ridge, now the administration's Homeland Security Department director, is considered a viable VP candidate. In fact, a former Clinton administration official thinks Bush will eventually settle on Ridge.
    Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, at a February speech in New York City, reportedly said Bush would choose Ridge as his second-term running mate, according to blog site SwingStateProject.com.
    It is an interesting prediction. Ridge has been described often as popular in Pennsylvania when he stepped down as governor to become the new Homeland Security chief.
    Also, Pennsylvania has been trending GOP in recent years, say political analysts. Adopting a popular Republican political figure may help Bush carry the state in 2004.
    Finally, one of Bush's campaign strengths is his so-far-successful war on terror. Ridge, as head of the nation's largest, most prominent anti-terrorism agency, serves as a plus for Bush.
    One drawback: Ridge is pro-choice; Bush is pro-life. Ridge could change his mind if "convinced" to do so, though, negating this negative.

    Rudy Giuliani
    There has already been some speculation that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who gained worldwide prominence for his management of the city following the 9/11 attacks, could be tapped to replace Cheney.
    While Giuliani has been praised by Republican leaders for his all out support for the President and had been touted for top jobs in a second Bush term (he was rumored to have been offered the UN ambassadorship but turned it down), it is doubtful Bush could take him and not alienate his conservative base.
    Giuliani has identified closely with the liberal wing of the party and even ran on the Liberal party line in each New York for mayor while eschewing the state's influential Conservative Party.

    Condoleezza Rice
    As national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice has performed her duties superlatively.
    As an African-American woman with brains and talent, she could boost the re-election effort of President Bush by appealing to two voting blocs at once--women and blacks, groups not overwhelmingly supportive of Bush--and position herself well for a presidential bid in 2008.
    This phenomenon has not been lost on some of the most astute political analysts. Fox News political analyst and NewsMax Magazine columnist Dick Morris thinks replacing Cheney with Rice would do insure Bush's victory in November.
    The move he says would devastate the Democrats by eroding their base and ending their race-baiting tactics, he suggested.

    John McCain
    Reports earlier in the election cycle claimed Kerry was attempting to woo Senate colleague, fellow Navy Vietnam veteran and former POW John McCain, R-Ariz., perhaps as a way to unite Republicans and independents disenfranchised with the Bush administration.
    But McCain rebuffed the offers.
    Still, whose side is McCain on?
    Recently McCain has come out swinging for George Bush, a move the Bush White House welcomes and appreciates.
    But he may be too much of a maverick to be trusted. Also, some top GOP'ers are questioning McCain's Republican credentials.
    In May, McCain criticized fellow Republicans for seeking to cut taxes during a time of war. "I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility," McCain said.
    Asked by reporters about McCain's remarks, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said: "If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda (two Washington area military hospitals). ... We have to react to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically."

    Colin Powell
    On the surface, Colin Powell seems a good choice. He would help secure some of the elusive African-American vote for the Republicans.
    He's extremely well-credentialed in military matters as a former Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has sound national security and foreign policy experience as well and could help the president smooth overseas relations with his calm and confident demeanor.
    And, besides D'Amato, there are others who believe Secretary of State Colin Powell could be an instant asset to the GOP as Bush's running mate.
    According to a Newsweek poll published July 11, the Dem ticket of Kerry-Edwards leads the Bush-Cheney ticket by around 6 points--51 to 45 percent.
    While a number of political analysts said Kerry would most likely get a nominal boost in the polls after naming a running mate, the poll also found that a Bush-Powell ticket could defeat a Kerry-Edwards ticket 53-44 percent.
    But it's not clear Powell would even accept Bush's offer. News report says he has sought to distance himself from the administration and has already signaled insiders he will leave after the November election.

    Mitt Romney
    As the Republican governor in the midst of perhaps the most high-profile social issue in decades, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts finds himself on the side of middle of the gay marriage controversy.
    But like Pataki, he is a conservative Republican that won in a liberal state. Translated: he can win over swing voters.
    Others have also speculated about a Bush-Romney ticket. "Comparatively speaking, Romney is the sun to Cheney's darkness, a politician who can deliver a punch with a smile instead of a lip-curl," The Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote in the paper's Feb. 3, 2004 edition. "Romney is political optimism and CEO-style competence. Cheney is a poorly executed war with Iraq, the false link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, and the US government's no-bid contracts with companies like Halliburton."
    Romney may not have the experience Bush would want, but he is a player in 2008 and beyond.

    Bill Owens
    Already considered a potential GOP presidential candidate for 2008, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens could also help Bush in the Midwest and West, though the president is already polling well there.

    Owens, however, may have a name recognition problem: Not enough Americans know who he is, and, according Dick Morris, Owens isn't likely to be able to win in 2008--at least for now. Overall, his addition doesn't add much. He'll need the next four years to define himself and become familiar with voters.