Former President George W. Bush considered dropping then-Vice President Dick Cheney from his re-election ticket in 2004 after concerns that Cheney had become too polarizing a force, according to an excerpt from his new memoir.
The idea came from Mr. Cheney, who offered to drop out of the race one day during a private lunch between the two men in mid-2003. “I did consider the offer,” Mr. Bush writes, and spent several weeks exploring the possibility of replacing Mr. Cheney with Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, before opting against the switch.
“While Dick helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left,” Mr. Bush writes. “He was seen as dark and heartless – the Darth Vader of the administration.” The president resented the caricature that Mr. Cheney really controlled the White House. “Accepting Dick’s offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge,” he writes.
But in the end, Mr. Bush writes, “the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt Dick should stay. I hadn’t picked him to be a political asset; I had chosen him to help me do the job. That was exactly what he had done.” Mr. Bush wrote that he trusted Mr. Cheney, valued his steadiness and considered him a good friend. So, “at one of our lunches a few weeks later, I asked Dick to stay and he agreed.”
The Times said that Cheney’s offer to resign had an “interesting antecedent” in a previous Bush Administration.
…During his father’s ultimately unsuccessful reelection bid in 1992, Mr. Bush says he urged him to dump Vice President Dan Quayle and put Mr. Cheney, then the defense secretary, on the ticket. His father declined, “but I never completely gave up on my idea of a Bush-Cheney ticket.”
Mr. Cheney clearly pushed Mr. Bush toward war. The former president writes that his vice president “had gotten out in front of my position” with an August 2002 speech dismissing the prospect of further inspections and says he ordered Ms. Rice to call Mr. Cheney to rein him back in.
At one point during their private weekly lunch, Mr. Cheney questioned whether Mr. Bush would follow through on the threats against Mr. Hussein. “Are you going to take care of this guy, or not?” Mr. Cheney demanded.