I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president? They're thinking, At some time down the road we may wind up thinking about a new plan. And one night over drinks at a barbecue in McLean one top guy will turn to another top guy and say, "Under the never permeable and never porous Dome of Silence, tell me . . . wouldn't you like to replace Cheney?" Why would they be thinking about this? It's not the shooting incident itself, it's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now. Halliburton, energy meetings, Libby, Plamegate.
Cheney has always said he has no aim to run. Bush may feel in time that he has reason to want to put in a new vice president in order to pick a successor who'll presumably have an edge in the primaries--he's the sitting vice president, and Republicans still respect primogeniture. They will tend to make the common-sense assumption that a man or woman who's been vice president for, say, a year and a half, is a man or woman who already knows the top job. Every president since 1960 has been a governor or vice president. Currently the Republican Governor of California is ineliigible because he is not a born American, the Republican Governor of Texas would be two Texans in a row and the Republican Governor of Florida is too liberal to win the nomination from the southern conservatives that choose the nominee and the Republican Governor of Florida would be two Bushes in a row and America is a republic, not a royalty run nation.
Anyway, the new man or woman will get a honeymoon, which means he won't be fully hated by the time the 2008 primaries begin.
This new vice president would, however, have to be very popular in the party, or the party wouldn't buy it. Replacing Cheney would be chancy. The new veep would have to get through the Senate, which has at this point at least three likely contenders for the nomination, at least two of whom who would not, presumably, be amused. The current secretary of state has succeeded through two senate confirmations already.
People wouldn't like it . . . unless they liked it. How could they be persuaded to like it?
It would have to be a man or woman wildly popular in the party and the press. And it would have to be a decision made by Dick Cheney. If he didn't want to do it he wouldn't have to. If he were pressed--Dick, we gotta pull your plug or we're going to lose in '08 and see all our efforts undone--he might make the decision himself. He'd have to step down on his own. He's just been through a trauma, and he can't be liking his job as much now as he did three years ago. No one on the downside of a second term does, hate magnet or not.
I've thought for what seems like a long time that Dick would have another heart attack -- rather than give them to his friends -- and fade to black (figuratively speaking), paving the way for The Chosen One, 2008. John McCain has been sucking up to Bush since 2004 and badly wants the Pope's blessing, but he won't get it for two reasons: One, the fundies can't abide him, and two, the governor of Arizona is a Democrat.
So my hunch is that if Condi moves up, you could see an independent McCain run for the White House in 2008 -- a scenario not altogether dissimilar from our gubernatorial contest here in Deep-In-The-Hearta this year.
No hunches from here yet on our 2008 candidate, the above scenario notwithstanding.
Update: Burt e-mails me to say that he got the idea from this RCP posting, which was inspired by the indomitable Peggy Noonan and also Tony Blankley. Burt, you gotta start hangin' out with a better crowd. And congratulations on your new gig with Councilman MJ Khan (the city of Houston's first Muslim-American council member now has a Jewish staffer. How about that.)