The Breakfast Table

Will Saletan and Timothy Ireland

Dear Tim,

How’s your heart this morning? Everyone else’s seems to be thumping loudly. They’re all worrying about Dick Cheney’s ticker, now that he’s been declared the default running mate for George W. Bush. According to today’s New York Times, last Friday Bush and his daddy asked Denton Cooley, cardiac surgeon to the stars, to quiz Cheney’s doctors about Cheney’s heart. Evidently, they wanted to make sure Cheney could handle the stress of the campaign. (Never mind that Bush’s campaign style hasn’t been particularly strenuous.) Yesterday’s chat shows were buzzing about the same thing.


Doesn’t anyone find it odd that we’re fretting about the vice president’s heart? This kind of anxiety used to be reserved for presidents (Bush’s daddy) and presidential candidates (Paul Tsongas, Bob Dole). In the case of President Bush, the anxiety was particularly high because everyone knew his vice president, Dan Quayle, was a moron. Quayle, according to the Democrats and the press, was “one heartbeat away” from the presidency, and an uncertain heartbeat at that. Now the roles are reversed. Everyone, both George Bushes included, is concerned that Cheney might croak, because the whole reason for putting Cheney on the ticket is to make sure George W. has adult supervision in the White House. This isn’t just a partisan suspicion. Off the record, most conservative journalists wonder whether Bush can scrape together the brains to win what they regard as an eminently winnable race. The rest of us wonder whether Bush, if he wins, can scrape together the brains to govern. The problem with Cheney’s tricky ticker is that it leaves Bush one heartbeat away from actually having to run the country.

I see a few other things to chat about this morning, but I’ll send the ball into your court for now.