It's election time, so you know it's time to pull the fear card.
Vice President Cheney sometimes starts speeches with a Ronald Reagan quotation about a "happy" nation needing "hope and faith." But not much happy talk follows. Not a lot of hope, either. He does, though, talk about the prospect of "mass death in the United States."
The not-so-happy warrior of the past two campaign cycles is back on the road delivering a grim message about danger, defeatism and the stakes of the coming election. If it is not a joyful exercise, it is at least a relentless one. Even with poll ratings lower than President Bush's, Cheney has become a more ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail than in the last midterm election.
He takes on not only the traditional vice presidential assignment of slicing up the opposition but also the Cassandra role of warning about dire threats to the nation's security. While others get distracted by Capitol Hill scandal, Cheney remains focused on the terrorists, who are, as he says in his stump speech, "still lethal, still desperately trying to hit us again." Bush, he says, is "protecting America" while the Democrats advocate "reckless" policies that add up to a "strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies."
But the message is carefully targeted. More than half of Cheney's fundraisers in this two-year cycle have been behind closed doors. Even at a lunchtime speech to Wisconsin Republican donors that was open to reporters, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mark Green did not stand on stage, ensuring no pictures of the two together on the news, and some other Republican candidates did not attend at all.
That is okay with the White House, which at a perilous moment is counting on Cheney's under-the-radar campaign to rally the base, not the broader public. Read on...