President Should Dump Cheney

Firing the vice president is Bush's only chance to get back on his feet

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Politicians across the political spectrum are hoping against hope that President Bush can take control of the nation and jumpstart a second term, kicking out chief adviser Karl Rove--who remains at risk in the Plame Affair--and changing policy in Iraq, where U.S. soldiers continue to die. But as everyone in Washington knows, Rove isn’t the real problem here. The real problem for Bush is Vice President Dick Cheney—it's Cheney's now former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who has been indicted in the Plame Affair, and it's his pushing that has the administration taking a hard line on the handling of detainees. And the best way, perhaps the only way, for Bush to take charge of the country is to dump the vice president, forcing him into retirement before he can be charged by Plame Affair prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald with violating the espionage laws.

These last few days, while Bush wandered around South America from one fruitless meeting to another and fended off charges of prisoner abuse in Iraq with bland statements such as "We do not torture," Cheney was busily working away behind the scenes seeking to persuade Congress not to impose restrictions on the CIA torture interrogators. The Washington Post revealed last week the CIA was running interrogations in secret jails for suspected terrorists in eastern Europe.

Cheney, even more than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is the man behind the Iraq war. Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby bluntly states that Cheney’s top aide learned Valerie Plame, the covert CIA agent, was administration critic Joe Wilson’s wife from Cheney. Given that, how can Cheney avoid testifying in a Libby trial? He does not have the immunity of a president.

"Libby is the firewall protecting Vice President Cheney," writes John Dean in his FindLaw column:

The Libby indictment asserts that "[o]n or about June 12, 2003 Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."
In short, Cheney provided the classified information to Libby - who then told the press. Anyone who works in national security matters knows that the Counterproliferation Division is part of the Directorate of Operations -- the covert side of the CIA, where most everything and everyone are classified.

If Fitzgerald were successful in flipping Libby--and that seems pretty clearly to be his intention--then Cheney himself would face charges of violating the espionage act.

The outcome? Libby will probably hold fast through the 2006 election, his lawyers dragging out the case by interviewing reporters, etc, and then Libby, if convicted, can expect a pardon. As for Cheney, he could save face, resigning for health reasons--that suspect ticker of his coming to the rescue.

At that point, Bush could appoint a new vice president to serve out the remainder of his term. This appointment would require majority approval of both houses of Congress under the 25th Amendment.

Meanwhile, its business as usual, Bush drifting from day to day with the currents. Yesterday just as Bush uttered his denial of torture, the army charged five Rangers with abusing prisoners in Iraq. This morning, Italian state TV aired a documentary describing how the U.S. used white phosphorous bombs against civilians in Falluja. The U.S. admits using the weapons to illuminate battlefields. We are not signatories to a treaty banning the use of white phosphorous weapons. The film is being broadcast on the first anniversary of the U.S. attack on Falluja, which destroyed much of the city and displaced its population of 300,000.

Tomorrow, Ahmed Chalabi, a deputy prime minister of Iraq, the man who fed the gullible American press wrong information on Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, is visiting Washington to address neocon headquarters at the American Enterprise Institute. Chalabi also is to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A thoroughly disgraced liar, the conduit of so much of the phony information that led us to war, a man with no political base outside the conniving neocon circles, Chalabi is now seriously discussed in Washington as a possible American-backed compromise candidate for Iraqi prime minister because he might appeal of the Shiite southern part of the country. As it stands, he is now in control of the oil industry, and in the minds of U.S. policymakers, that counts for a lot.

 
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