Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Over the weekend someone said to me, "Hillary is the only Democrat out there that could lose this thing." I think that might be overstating it just a tad-- but it is probably true that she is the only one among the top three or four that could lose it-- and that raises an interesting question. How did the Republicans maneuver themselves into this place? You have to go all the way back to Eisenhower/Stevenson to get to an election without an incumbent-- and the present Republican slate offers nothing like the array of prominent choices available to the GOP in 1952. It has seemed that each piece of the Bush White House was designed to further a particular agenda-- Cheney is there to increase the power of the Executive Branch, to compensate for the erosion of the Imperial Presidency he perceived Nixon's downfall as having caused (a canard, I think); Rumsfeld was going to transform the military; and Rove was going to bring about a permanent majority for the party. (I would argue that one of the ways Rove set about this was to turn DOJ into a vehicle for appeasing and expanding the base, first with the Mad Parson, and then with Gonzales.) It seems odd that they did not plan for succession. Cheney knew he was the right guy for the job six years ago, after conducting a search in a telephone booth. Did he plan to step aside after the first term? Confronted with a change of circumstances they couldn't have anticipated, they must have thought that tinkering with the ticket might be fatal-- and it is possible that this was a correct assessment. (It is also possible that they figured Bush wasn't capable of running the show himself.) It leaves the Republicans in a bad spot, though. The minority status in Congress is not as dire for them as it might be-- the Democrats majority is a precarious thing-- but looking over the prospective candidates for both parties what I see is that the Democrats have a number of attractive choices and the Republicans have a slate full of compromises. I don't understand how they could have let this happen, and it makes me nervous. Could there be a dark horse they are holding in reserve? Did they reckon that Hillary was such an inevitability that the hand-off would occur without the need for sophisticated planing? I think it unlikely that Cheney and Rove would pick McCain as successor. Who did they have in mind?

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