Dick Cheney Speaks Truth to Palin

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The former vice president says John McCain made a mistake when he chose her as his running mate, and that Mitt Romney shouldn't repeat it.

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Reuters

ABC News is offering a summary of former vice-president Dick Cheney's comments about the selection of Sarah Palin for the 2008 ticket:

"That one," Cheney said, "I don't think was well handled."

"The test to get on that small list has to be, 'Is this person capable of being president of the United States?'"

Cheney believes Sarah Palin failed that test.

"I like Governor Palin. I've met her. I know her. She -- attractive candidate. But based on her background, she'd only been governor for, what, two years. I don't think she passed that test...of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake."

Cheney's right.

The country will be better served if Mitt Romney chooses a running mate who is actually prepared to be president should it become necessary. It makes sense that a vice president who played so active a role in managing the response to a terrorist attack would find it galling that so many Republicans say that Palin is qualified for the same job.* Not that Palin's fans will see it that way.

The Tea Party affiliated conservative pundit Lloyd Marcus has given voice to the inevitable backlash, emailing out a statement Sunday night that said, in part, "To suggest that Sarah Palin does not possess the necessary qualifications to serve in the White House is ridiculous on its face. Ever since she was selected in 2008 by the Republican Party's nominee for president, then ratified by the GOP membership at the Republican Party convention, she has proven time and time again to be an extremely capable, inspiring and visionary leader." Put another way, he's citing her success as a figurehead in the Tea Party as evidence that she was qualified to step in as president, serving as head of the executive branch and the United States military.

That's a silly argument.

What's sillier is the determination of many in the GOP to keep defending Sarah Palin. That's always been a fruitless enterprise, and it's a particularly quixotic one at this moment, for it's very difficult to see how raising her profile could help the GOP during the 2012 election cycle. 

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*Whether the nation would've been better off on 9/11 had Sarah Palin been vice president instead of Dick Cheney is a fascinating counterfactual. On one hand, George W. Bush was out of his depth, Cheney had a great deal of experience, and he surely made contributions to American steadiness and security in the days immediately after the attacks. On the other hand, Cheney did more to advance malign and disastrous policies during the Bush Administration than anyone else, he brought David Addington into government, and he was among the most irresponsible people in the Bush Administration when it came to the accuracy of his rhetoric about Iraq. All things considered, I have to say that Palin may well have been the better vice president. Sure, she would've been a disaster, in frivolous, obvious ways, but no one would've trusted her with real power (and as we all know, George W. Bush stayed alive through two terms).

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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