For all the talk about potential candidates who haven't entered the 2008 presidential race — from Mayor Bloomberg to Vice President Gore to Senator Thompson and Speaker Gingrich — the one that who would bring the most to the race is Vice President Cheney. In previous recent campaigns, when there was an outgoing president who had won a second term, there has been a vice president around on the campaign trail to defend the record of the administration. George H.W. Bush promised to be kinder and gentler than Reagan, but he was still essentially defending the Reagan record. Vice President Gore didn't campaign much with President Clinton in 2000, but he was running in part on the record of the Clinton-Gore administration.
This year, the leading Republican candidates include Senator McCain, who was Mr. Bush's rival in a bitter 2000 primary contest and who voted against some of Mr. Bush's tax cuts, and Mayor Giuliani, who is going around proclaiming, in what seems a rebuke of George W. Bush, "it's time now that we have a president that knows how to get things done." 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.
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, a point made by Kathryn Jean Lopez in a post on the topic at National Review Online back in February. By our rights, Lynne Cheney would make one of the greatest First Ladies in history. 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.
Lawrence Kudlow wrote a column a while back saying he hoped President Bush asked Vice President Cheney to run for president in 2008. It was a fine idea then and it still is — not because the current field is particularly weak, but because Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure, one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush. A White House aiming to get Mr. Cheney elected could also avoid some of the hazards that befall lame-ducks — drift, brain drain, irrelevance. Such a campaign might lift Mr. Cheney 's own standing in the polls.
The vice president's stature would put him instantly into the first rank of contenders on the Republican side. On Monday, speaking in Alabama, the vice president received such a warm greeting that he began his remarks by saying, "A reception like that is almost enough to make you want to run for office again." It is hard to imagine the vice president did not comprehend how tantalizing such a remark would be. He used the same opening line on March 24 when he spoke to the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This is not an endorsement, and there are things we find attractive about many of the other candidates. But for those of us who are concerned with extending Mr. Bush's campaign for freedom around the world and cutting taxes at home, a Cheney campaign is attractive.
In the same Alabama speech in which Mr. Cheney quipped about wanting to run for office again, he said, "America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of this earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in that fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that's not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail." What a contrast to the carping over tactics that has infected some of the Republican field and to the fever among the Democrats for cutting off funds for our GIs and sounding a retreat.