WASHINGTON, D.C.--Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to the hospital at three o'clock this morning for shortness of breatha little S.O.B. for a bona fide S.O.B.-- is sure to once again raise the question of whether the VP can make it through his second term in office.
Cheney spokesman made light of the V.P.'s four-hour visit, saying it was caused by problems connected to a foot ailment and had nothing to do with his heart problems. At the hospital, Cheney was given a diuretic and sent home after 7 a.m.
Cheney seems sure to face questioning by the special prosecutor in the Plame leak case, questioning that might well directly embroil him in the case. He has been a strong defender of DeLay, forced out as Majority Leader of the House this weekend, and last week jumped into the fray to backup Bush's domestic spy program. Every day, the administration appears more and more besieged, forced to circle the wagons ever closer.
If push came to shove, the easiest and possibly most graceful way to ease the pressure on Bush will be for his controversial vice president to resign for health reasons. That might well give Bush some respite and allow him to cobble together a new administration.
With Cheney gone, Bush could appoint a new vice president who would need a vote of approval by Congress. This possibility, which the stubborn Bush will resist up to the last, might save at least a semblance of his decaying presidency.
Cheney's health has been a question for years.
In September, Cheney had surgery to remove aneurysms behind both knees. Recently Cheney has been walking with a cane because of problems with his left foot.
Following a physical, doctors said Cheney also had a mild case of esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus.
At the age of 37, back in 1978, Cheney had the first of four heart attacks. The fourth heart attack occurred after the election of 2000. In 2001 he was operated on for a clogged artery, and was given a pacemaker to help detect irregular heart rhythms. He hasn't suffered any other heart problems since then, according to his doctors.