The Bush 2004 team finally has the scenario it needs to shake up its fast-disappearing election hopes for the fall: Dick Cheney can be removed from the ticket for cause. In a story that has yet to receive big play on this long holiday weekend, Time magazine reports that the Vice President lied about whether he or close, high-ranking aides had any influence over huge contracts Halliburton received in the Iraq misadventure. Time obtained:
"... an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year. The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids."
This amounts to a smoking gun, and makes it more likely that Republicans unhappy with Iraq and the President's lackluster reelection campaign will begin internal pressure to dump the Veep in favor of a more well-liked, more mainstream Republican. Will the Bush team allow Cheney to be portrayed (accurately) as the corrupt, out-of-touch, war-hawking albatross of the '04 campaign? Or will it cut him and move on?
UPDATE: This story was getting very little play in the U.S., but tons in the U.K. - my Parliamentary alter ego Tom Watson blogged it, as did Tim Ireland. Now I see Political Wire has picked it up. Does the story have legs?