Dick and Rush on the Democrats

So Dick Cheney has weighed in on the Democrats. But when the Number Two Republican starts handicapping Democrats, you just can’t take it at face value.

The vice president, speaking to FOX’s own Sean Hannity, seemed to praise Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy while throwing some cold water on the boomlet surrounding first term Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Of Hillary, the vice president said, "I think Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate. I think she could win. I hope she doesn't. I disagree with her on nearly all the issues, but nobody should underestimate her. She's a very serious candidate for president."

Whereas Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, was an "attractive guy. Don't know him well, met him a few times. I think at this stage, my initial take on him was he's been two years as a senator. I think people might want a little more experience than that, given the nature of the times we live in. But certainly, he's an attractive candidate. If he decides to run, he'll be a player on the Democratic side."

“People might want a little more experience"… What does that mean? One possibility, of course, remote though it may be, is that the vice president actually meant what he said and said what he meant. He thinks Hillary is qualified to be president. He isn’t so sure about Barack. Maybe he’s projecting it onto voters. Maybe he’s being honest.

Honest. OK. I’m drug free. But I am the mother of teenagers and that does make you crazy.

Still. There is something to be said for qualifications, time spent being there and doing that. William Safire wrote a memorable column in which he compared politicians to plumbers in terms of the value we place on experience. You certainly wouldn’t want a fresh faced plumber. Or you wouldn’t say of an electrician, he’ll learn, the last one did, finally. Why not a president?

But putting aside the plain meaning of the vice president’s words in favor of a blacker reading of their underlying intent, there are many who assume that they reflect “their” determination that “they” would rather run against Hillary than Obama, because they fear Obama more; that they recognize him for the phenomenon he could be; that they are as afraid of him as we are as excited about him, and what could be clearer proof than that the vice president came out and went after him on the third day of his boomlet? It doesn’t get much better than that.

And if that’s what the Republicans are feeling, imagine what they must be thinking in Hillary-land…. Or so goes the talk. What’s talk?

Rushing to Judgment

"I think this is exploitative in a way that's unbecoming of either Claire McCaskill or Michael J. Fox," Rush Limbaugh said. He also said that Fox was "either off his medication or acting," when the actor made a commercial showing him suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s as he endorsed McCaskill and criticized her opponent, and that the Democrats were trotting out the victims again.

What Rush Limbaugh is really saying is the equivalent of what Ann Coulter said about the 9/11 widows, although Rush was still, even with the crack about the meds, a little nicer.

That Ann was wrong about her first point – claiming victims enjoy immunity from criticism – is established by the very existence of Rush’s critique. Concern with victims, or exploiting them, did not stop President Bush from trying to find supposed beneficiaries of adult stem cell research to appear with him when he vetoed the bill which would have allowed for embryonic stem cell research using embryos from fertility clinics which were otherwise going to be destroyed.

As to the question of whether victims have anything to say, on the subject of stem cell research, what gives Rush more right to speak than Michael J. Fox, after all? They both started as actors. One made it on television, one in the radio.

But one has special reason to know everything there is to know about stem cell research, and its possible benefits. Why isn’t that all the more reason to listen to him?

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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