David Limbaugh

It's highly doubtful that Cheney will drag down the ticket, but his removal might. The conservative base remains strongly behind him and would be justifiably upset if he were cashiered. As for so-called swing voters, they are going to vote mainly for president, not vice president.

Besides, Cheney can more than hold his own against Edwards, unless you're talking solely about superficial qualities. Edwards may be more glib and charismatic, but Cheney is the adult with a reservoir of knowledge, maturity and experience, especially in foreign affairs and defense, which will be the deciding issues in this war-dominated campaign.

I realize that Edwards, according to Edwards, "was the first person in his family able to go to college" and that his "father worked in a mill in Northern Carolina." And I'm gratified that Edwards reminded us of these dispositive background facts, because they just didn't sink in the first 150 times he said them.

But there's a more fundamental reason Cheney shouldn't be fired. While his role has been overstated -- he's not the de facto president -- he is nevertheless an essential part of the governing team who has played a major role in national security decisions. He and the president, while not co-presidents, are seen as one, where the war on terror and Iraq policy are concerned.

President Bush's removal of Cheney for other than health reasons would be tantamount to an admission by the president that his own national security policies have been flawed and that he has to change course. He would be sending a message of no-confidence in his own governance because if Cheney has been wrong or too hawkish, so has Bush. Democrats now clamoring for Cheney's head would triumphantly portray his expulsion as complete vindication of all their opportunistic criticism of the war effort.

President Bush is not about to concede that he has been traveling the wrong course in the war by discharging the man who has helped him more than any other to navigate these treacherous waters the last three years. There won't be any turning back now -- and there shouldn't be.

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh, brother of radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, is an expert on law and politics. He recently authored the New York Times best-selling book: "Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel."

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