The GOP's secret weapon?

Run, Dick, run!

Published April 6, 2007 2:02PM (EDT)

Memo to the New York Sun: April Fools' Day was Sunday.

In an editorial dated Wednesday, the Sun said that the not-yet-declared candidate who would "bring the most" to the 2008 presidential race is ... Dick Cheney.

No, really.

The Sun explained: "Mr. Cheney has virtues as a candidate in his own right. He has foreign policy experience by virtue of having served as defense secretary, and he has economic policy experience, having served as a leading tax-cutter while a member of the House of Representatives. His wife, Lynne, would be an asset to the ticket in her own right ... Mr. Cheney, in any event, is more than four years younger than Mr. McCain, and, if elected, would be 67 years old at his inauguration, younger than Reagan was when he took office. His health, while a topic of frequent speculation, hasn't interfered with his service as vice president."

And an extra-special side bonus: "Were Mr. Cheney in the race, it's hard to imagine that the president's approval ratings would not be five or 10 points higher. The reason is that the administration would have a defender on the campaign trail as part of the public debate."

Put aside for the moment that Cheney says he isn't running. Put aside for the moment that Cheney's favorability rating is just 18 percent in the latest CBS News poll and 34 percent in the latest Fox News poll. Put aside for the moment that Cheney was wrong when he said that Saddam Hussein had WMD, when he said that U.S. troops would be "greeted as liberators," when he predicted that we were seeing "the last throes" of the insurgency in Iraq.

OK, don't put any of that aside. But it does seem that there will always be a tiny group of Americans -- 18 percent, 34 percent, the New York Sun editorial board -- who think that Cheney's experience and gravelly gravitas somehow translate to wisdom and skill. And for those people, the facts of Cheney's performance in office -- wait, don't forget that he shot somebody -- will never cause a second thought.

They're the sort of folks who probably listened to Dick Cheney declare on Rush Limbaugh's show Thursday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was running al-Qaida operations in Iraq before the start of the war there. But they're probably not the sort of folks who would read -- or care about -- today's Washington Post story on a declassified Defense Department document that says that captured Iraqi documents and interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides have confirmed that the Iraqi government wasn't working with al-Qaida before the war. Oh, and Zarqawi? Intelligence analysts say he wasn't even a member of al-Qaida before the United States invaded Iraq.


We're sure it's like the Sun was saying: "Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure [than other GOP candidates], one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush ... The vice president's stature would put him instantly into the first rank of contenders on the Republican side."

By Tim Grieve

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

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