Dick Cheney and Valerie Plame: Speculation, rumor and spin

U.S. News cites rumors of a Cheney resignation. Is the White House playing the expectations game?

Published October 18, 2005 8:15PM (EDT)

Patrick Fitzgerald hasn't said he's indicting anyone yet, and George W. Bush refused to say yesterday whether he'd expect anyone who's indicted to resign from his administration. But the lack of news only invites speculation in Washington, and there's plenty of that going on.

The latest incarnation: rumors that Vice President Dick Cheney would resign if the Plame investigation hits too close to him. According to a thinly sourced tale in U.S. News & World Report, "government officials and advisers" are passing around "rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice." The magazine doesn't quote anybody on the record, and it doesn't seem to have found anyone who's taking the rumors seriously. "Folks on the inside and near inside are holding their breath and wondering what's next," a "Bush adviser" tells the magazine. But are they worried about Cheney resigning? "Not that, at least not seriously."

As stories pushing the Plame investigation higher up the chain of command swirl about -- Cheney's face is on CNN right now -- perhaps it would be wise to remember this. The Bush White House is full of masterful spinners, and they're good at playing the expectations game. Maybe they're really concerned that Cheney will be indicted or at least implicated in Plame's outing. But maybe they know that, if they get enough people thinking that Cheney may face charges, the indictment of a Karl Rove or a Scooter Libby might suddenly come off as no big thing.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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