Campaigning Cheney

Cheney has emerged from his ‘secure location’ to stump for Bush. Is that good news?


Last week, vice-president Dick Cheney made more headlines
than the Bush re-election team could have wished for when he
told Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont to go
“f— yourself.” Democrats are looking forward to hearing more from Cheney in the weeks ahead and, if the recent past
is any indication, they will get their wish. Generally known as a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, Cheney has been uncharestically out and about these days. Since April, Cheney has
made campaign stops in 23 states
, stumping and
fundraising for the president and local candidates. So much for the ‘secure location.’

Republicans are hoping that Cheney will mobilize the conservative
base, remind swing voters that the economy might be rebounding,
and emphasise Bush’s resolve in the war on terror. And be the campaign’s ideological attack dog. As

the veep put it in one recent speech
: “These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and
another the next… We need a commander in chief of clear
vision and steady determination.”

But at a time when Bush’s approval ratings have been the
lowest of his entire presidency, when most voters disagree
with the Iraq policy which Cheney orchestrated, and when
Halliburton has become synonymous taxpayer rip-off, the
vice-president’s increasingly visible role in the campaign
may do Bush more harm than good. And some are wondering if the vice president has what it takes to handle life on the campaign trail. As political scientist Michael Nelson told the

Los Angles Times
: “I can’t even form a mental picture
of Dick Cheney on a bus.”

Bush’s ratings are nothing to boast about these days, but
he is still in a better shape than Cheney.
According to the latest
Battleground poll,
45 percent of the voters have a favorable view of Cheney
compared to Bush’s 52 percent; 46 percent view both men
unfavorably. The Mother Jones poll conducted last month revealed similar numbers.

For the Democrats, Cheney is the embodiment of the
cronyism, warmongering, deceit, and arrogance that has
characterized the Bush presidency. He has been arguably one
of the most powerful vice presidents in U.S. history and was
key in the decision to invade Iraq. In the run-up to the
war, Cheney adamantly insisted that there was a cooperative
relationship between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and that the Iraqi
leader possessed weapons of mass destruction — claims
accepted by the American public. What’s more, even after the
bi-partisan 9/11 commission concluded that the allegations
of the Al-Qaeda-Hussein relationship had no basis in fact,
Cheney has refused to admit that he was wrong. And of
course, the vice-president still holds out hope that the
ever-elusive WMDs will be found, just as promised in the
bogus intel. As former Clinton advisor
Sidney Blumenthal
argues in the London Guardian:

Bush’s executive branch has been concentrated in Cheney. He
has been as powerful as Quayle was irrelevant. It was Cheney
who said to UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as he embarked on
his mission to Iraq: ‘We will not hesitate to discredit
you’; Cheney who personally tried to force the CIA to give
credence to Ahmed Chalabi’s fabricated and false evidence on
WMD; Cheney who, along with Secretary of Defence Donald
Rumsfeld (to whom he was deputy in the Nixon White House),
undermined Secretary of State Colin Powell at every turn;
and it is Cheney who is the neo-conservatives’ godfather.

In 2000, Cheney’s foreign policy experience combined with
an expectation that he would be an activist vice-president
aided Bush, who was criticized for being a political novice
with no background in foreign policy. Today, however, Cheney’s activism — particularly in matters
of foreign policy – is shaping up to be a liability. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll,

60 percent of the voters disapprove of Bush’s Iraq policy

and 52 percent are unhappy with the way the president has
conducted the “war on terror.” For Bush, who is running as a
“war president,” this is some devastating news.

Seeing that the war on terrorism is loosing some of its
electoral power, the White House is putting the spotlight on
the recent job growth. As Cheney, speaking in the swing
state of Kentucky, put it: “There’s a simple reason for

our growing prosperity
…The Bush tax relief is working.” But
with 45 percent of the voters

blaming the administration for job losses
and Bill Clinton’s
book tour reminding us all of a not-so-distant time of balanced budgets,
job growth, and runaway growth, Cheney’s words ring hollow.

And speaking of Cheney’s way with words … his
now infamous outburst, which his office termed as a “frank
exchange of views,” was brought on by Leahy’s accusations
that Halliburton — the company Cheney headed after serving as
George H. Bush’s chief of state and before becoming
vice-president — has engaged in wartime profiteering in
Iraq. That’s a charge the Pentagon itself seems ready to support. According to the Defense Department’s own findings, Halliburton
has dumped up to $61 million in gasoline overcharges alone on taxpayers. What’s more, the company has had a way of winning lucrative Iraqi contracts with little or no competition. As Kerry’s
spokesman

Phil Singer
told the Los Angeles Times : “Cheney
is a key part of the argument against George Bush…He
exemplifies the poor policy decisions and troubling ties to
corporate America that have come to characterize this
administration.”

Meanwhile, the vice president’s corporate ties are making
him quite a hit on the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee’s web-reality show
“Republican Survivor.”
Cheney has so far outwitted John Ashcroft and DeLay, with
Ann Coulter, Katherine Harris, and boss Bush left to go…