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Bush Under Strain, a Heartbeat Away | The Nation

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Bush Under Strain, a Heartbeat Away

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So much good news has been generated by the Bush Administration concerning the health of Dick Cheney that perhaps all of us should have four heart attacks, a quadruple bypass, a stent inserted in a coronary artery later reopened to remove blockage, and both a pacemaker and a defibrillator installed under our collarbones in order to ensure longevity. Try selling that to your HMO.

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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Hopefully it's true that the extensive medical intervention provided free of charge by the socialized medical system available only to the White House and Congress can keep the Vice President's permanently damaged heart pumping.

But surely it would be more prudent to conduct the search for a miracle cure outside of the pressures of the White House environment, where Cheney puts in sixty-hour work-weeks running the country because the president is not up to the job.

There was something macabre about Bush's cheerful insistence that Cheney would soon be back on the job because the Vice President just loves to work so hard. Isn't it a bit weird that it is George W., the young healthy guy, who has to take all of those daytime naps? Perhaps Bush is conserving his energy because he knows that he's only a heartbeat away from the presidency.

He may also have a darker view of Cheney's condition, having access to the Vice President's medical records, which have been held secret. This is unprecedented for a President or Vice President in modern times.

It's a sad measure of the President's need for adult supervision that Cheney has become the first Vice President in modern US history to seize control of the White House and render the President himself a public relations front man sent around the country to do photo ops.

It may not be polite to dwell on the point, but it's a well-recorded fact that the President messes up just about every time he departs from the restraints of the tightly scripted events.

Imagine the never-ending attacks on Bill Clinton had he been the one to look deeply into former KGB spymaster Vladimir V. Putin's eyes and pronounce him a man with an endearing soul.

Nope, Bush had best stick to what he's good at, flashing his Alfred E. Neuman what-me-worry? smile before the cameras and leaving the harder stuff to his handlers, of whom Cheney is clearly No. 1.

Everyone knows that Cheney, not Bush, runs the show, which helps explain the inexperienced President's miserable poll ratings--the lowest of a President in five years--particularly when people are asked if they have confidence in Bush's competency.

Why should they, when a political relic like Cheney, inevitably distracted with health problems, is the one in charge?

How desperate was Bush for an authority figure on the ticket that he stuck us with Cheney, whose medical profile should have automatically disqualified him to be the President's backup?

Cheney's serious heart problems are long-standing, and he did Bush and the nation a serious disservice when the vice presidential search he directed resulted in Cheney himself being chosen as the most viable candidate.

Photo ops are obviously a fun time for the President, and such events play to his real talent, but someone has to be at work in the White House running the country. It is cruel and unusual punishment to keep dragging Cheney out of the hospital to do that.

Cheney has said he would resign if his heart problem interfered with his work. It obviously does, given that he is under constant monitoring, which at the very least must be a major distraction. Not to mention the strain on his heart were the President to become incapacitated, leaving Cheney with his finger that close to the nuclear button.

Think of it this way: Cheney's medical condition would disqualify him as a private in the Army. It certainly raises questions about his ability to function as commander-in-chief with ultimate responsibility for our collective security.

It's time for Cheney to resign and for Bush to appoint Secretary of State Colin Powell, the man who should have been his surrogate President all along.

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