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05.14.09

Run, Dick, Run

Conventional wisdom says the former VP has left politics behind, but could he actually be running for president? Stranger things have happened. Here are 8 signs you might just be seeing "Cheney 2012" everywhere.

The former vice president's current media blitz begs a question: could he actually be planning a presidential run? Here are 8 signs you might be seeing "Cheney 2012."

Dick Cheney has always insisted he never wanted George W. Bush’s job, and on a national level, he's about as popular as swine flu. Seems unlikely he’d jump into the 2012 presidential fray, right? Not so fast. Cheney has been appearing on television with a frequency typically reserved for presidential aspirants, and if history is any guide (he selected himself for vice president in 2000), humility won't hinder him. Could he be gearing up for a run? Stranger things have happened—Richard Nixon, for example, was Cheney’s equal in provoking liberal ire, and it was eight years between his vice presidency and his presidential win in 1968. The Daily Beast gathers eight clues that Cheney—and his doggedly loyal supporters—are paving the way for his presidential run in 2012.

1. The media blitz

At this point, someone should just give him his own show. The former vice president has been carpet-bombing network news, taking to the airwaves to criticize President Obama every chance he gets. In the past few weeks, he’s spoken with Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, Bob Schaeffer, and radio host Scott Hennen. He’s also scheduled to give a major address to the American Enterprise Institute next week. The thrust of his message? “Obama is making us less safe.” Never mind that, as Republican Lawrence Wilkerson points out: “More Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney's watch than on any other leader's watch in U.S. history.” It seems like we should expect more of Cheney, not less. “I'm not trying to start any rumors,” wrote Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, “but Cheney is certainly acting like a guy who plans to run for something. He's doing lots of media interviews, cultivating his connection with Limbaugh, attacking the president, lying about Democratic ideas, and giving at least one speech at a major conservative think tank about his vision for the future.”

2. His old fans are coming out of the woodwork

The New York Sun's editors love Dick Cheney so much that they recently brought their deceased publication briefly back to life, apparently just to praise the idea of a presidential run by the former VP. An infamous Sun editorial in 2007 suggested Cheney run in 2008. And though that didn’t happen, the paper printed a reprise of said editorial last month on its previously defunct Web site, arguing that it made the right call at the time. "Our own view is that Mr. Cheney just might have beaten Mr. Obama, particularly if he had broken with Mr. Bush on the bailout of the banks and the seizure of AIG and Fannie Mae, actions that both Messrs. McCain and Obama backed.” And while the Sun stopped short of endorsing Cheney for 2012, writing instead that "a new generation of leaders" was needed, famed neocon Bill Kristol went all the way this week on his Weekly Standard blog, writing, "Of course, everyone’s first choice for president in 2012 is Dick Cheney." Given his close ties to the Bush administration, it is at least somewhat possible he wasn't being sarcastic.

3. He hasn’t said he’s not running for president

OK, that may not be enough to convince a jury of his peers, but as far as these things go, you’re in it until you say you’re not.

4. There could be a Bush on the ticket

They wouldn’t even have to print new bumper stickers. Speaking about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on (no surprise) Fox News, Cheney said, “I like Jeb. I think he's a good man. I'd like to see him continue to stay involved politically.” He added, “I'd probably support him for president.” Does Cheney think his best shot would be to hitch his wagon to a Bush’s star, or perhaps, more sinisterly, does he realize the only name less popular than his own—and therefore the easiest to beat in a primary—is Bush?

5. Republicans are too scared to tell him not to

Would you want to stand in Cheney’s way? In a Washington Post article about Republicans’ uneasiness over Cheney’s attacks on the Obama administration, not a single critic would go on the record. “Cheney remains powerful enough that most of his GOP critics are not willing to take him on in public,” the Post wrote. "The fact that most people want to talk [not-for-attribution] shows what a problem it continues to be," said one Republican strategist who talked not-for-attribution. "Cheney continues to be a force among many members of our base, and while he is entirely unhelpful, no one has the standing to show him the door."

6. He’s younger than John McCain

That’s right. Despite his four heart attacks (the first one suffered at age 37) and his geezerly stoop (complete with an inauguration stint in a wheelchair), the former vice president is only 68 years old—four years younger than John McCain. And come 2012, he would be 72, the same age McCain was in 2008.

7. He’s chosen himself before

In 2000, Dick Cheney was appointed to the head of George W. Bush’s vice-presidential search committee. After surveying the field, he chose himself. Over the last eight years, his self-regard has only grown. Which could mean he’s in line to give himself a promotion.

8. It’d probably go better than last time

When Dick Cheney almost ran for president in 1996, The New York Times noted that “Mr. Cheney's withdrawal is unlikely to have a discernible effect on the Republican field because he did not have a particularly large base of support.” It’s true that he still lacks “a particularly large base of support,” but after eight years as vice president, it must be somewhat bigger, right? And, now that he swims in the deep end, he’s shed some of the baggage that prevented his campaign from taking off in 1996. "You have to be a little bit crazy to run for president," Bill Kristol theorized at the time, "and Dick Cheney is a very sane man."

Xtra Insight: The Daily Beast's Robert Windrem: Cheney's Office Suggested Waterboarding

Xtra Insight: The Daily Beast's Andy Borowitz: The Cheney Media Blitz You Didn't See