John McCaslin

Mum's the word

Instead of hawking Viagra like former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Vice President Dick Cheney, upon leaving office, ought to don the Energizer Bunny costume.

Contrary to predictions by practically every pundit in Washington, Mr. Cheney outlasted repeated rumors of his impending demise, whether it be due to "declining health," spreading "faulty intelligence," CIA spy-leak "links," using "poor" judgment, or just plain peppering his pal with birdshot.

U.S. News & World Report, for example, wrote in 2005 that there were "rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

Others predicted 18 months ago that Mr. Cheney would be gone "within a year."

However, barring another hunting mishap, the vice president apparently has no intention of stepping down anytime soon, albeit he delights in keeping news organizations in the dark when it comes to his personal — and even official — affairs.

When Mr. Cheney does eventually leave office, whether by surprise announcement in the coming weeks or months, or when his White House term expires in January 2009, the only remaining question will be how he plans to spend his retirement.

"I'd rather not talk about that," the vice president evaded the inquiry when Inside the Beltway posed the question.

Would he return to his native Wyoming?

"I'd rather not talk about that," he said.

How empires end

President Bush says he doesn't often read newspapers and newsmagazines. And that's a good thing, because he would not enjoy reading Pat Buchanan's dire forecast for the United States of America.

"We are about to witness how empires end," Mr. Buchanan writes in the July 30 issue of the American Conservative, insisting that official Washington "is truly about to write off Iraq as a lost cause."

The Republican lines on Capitol Hill are crumbling, the conservative commentator notes. "It is a near-certainty the U.S.-backed government will fall, and friends we leave behind will suffer the fate of our Vietnamese and Cambodian friends in 1975."

Which means?

"A breakup of the country seems certain," he says. "Al Qaeda will claim it has run the American superpower out of Iraq."

As for fallout in America?

"Here at home, the argument over who is responsible for the worst strategic debacle in American history will be poisonous," Mr. Buchanan opines. "With a U.S. defeat in Iraq, American prestige would plummet ... . We are about to witness how empires end."

Scarred soul

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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