Speaking of speculation, former Reagan and Bush I speechwriter Peggy Noonan is crystal-balling Dick Cheney's future in today's Wall Street Journal. Her "hunch": The vice president may be in his last throes.
Noonan thinks that White House types are probably starting to think about life after Cheney. "It's not the shooting incident itself," she says. "It's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now. Halliburton, energy meetings, Libby, Plamegate. This was not all bad for the White House: Mr. Cheney took the heat that would otherwise have been turned solely on George Bush. So he had utility, and he's experienced and talented and organized, and Mr. Bush admires and respects him. But, at a certain point a hate magnet can draw so much hate you don't want to hold it in your hand anymore, you want to drop it, and pick up something else."
Cheney probably doesn't want to be dropped, Noonan says, but she wonders whether George W. Bush's desire to stay the course in Iraq might trump his loyalty to the vice president. Sticking with the Bush plan in Iraq may mean engineering things so that a like-minded Republican replaces Bush in 2008, Noonan says, and that, in turn, may mean that Bush would see some value in giving somebody the edge by putting him -- or her -- in the vice president's seat ahead of that election.
Noonan says it would be a hard sell among Republicans and in the Senate, which would have to confirm a new V.P. But it could work, she says, if Cheney got behind the idea. "If he were pressed -- Dick, we gotta put the next guy in here 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."