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Jon Meacham is reliably vapid, but this is a new low, even for him.

I think we should be taking the possibility of a Dick Cheney bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 more seriously, for a run would be good for the Republicans and good for the country. [...] Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people.

Cheney was judged — in 2006 and 2008. His favored policies (preemptive war, “deficits don’t matter”) have failed and been repudiated in spectacular fashion. As a result, he is one of the most unpopular vice presidents in history and his reeling party is at all-time lows. Where’s the ambiguity?

A contest between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama would offer us a bracing referendum on competing visions.

Is Meacham actually suggesting that there are no policy differences between McCain and Obama? Really? Then why isn’t McCain supporting Obama’s agenda? And while Obama has been a disappointment to progressives, the idea that McCain and Cheney are vastly different is absurd.

One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction. A Cheney victory would mean that America preferred a vigorous unilateralism to President Obama’s unapologetic multilateralism, and vice versa.

But Bush did not have a mandate he lost the popular vote in 2000, and won a single-state victory in 2004. And despite that, I would really like to know how the Democrats “refusal” to allow Bush to enact his agenda manifested itself.

Despite holding the Senate, Democrats passed Bush’s tax cuts and later gave him his war in Iraq. No Child Left Behind, the Medicare bill, the war supplementals — whatever Bush wanted, Bush got. It took Katrina and the unfolding disaster in Iraq to prevent him from reforming destroying Social Security.

Meanwhile, the GOP has party-line rejected Obama’s first two big initiatives, the stimulus and health care reform — even though he won a larger percentage of the popular vote than Ronald Reagan in 1980.

And I’d still like to know the difference between McCain’s foreign policy and Dick Cheney’s. And really — is Obama’s that different from Cheney’s at this point? Surge in Afghanistan, check. Troops still in Iraq, check. $700B in defense spending, check. Gitmo still open, check.

The difference Meacham is fetishizing is apparently about tone and symbolism, i.e., Cheney would say meaner things about Iran, wouldn’t bow to the Japanese Emperor and would be “tough” — unlike that sissy Obama who has launched more Predator attacks in 9 months than his predecessor did in 8 years.

I don’t think we need a third election to determine whether the American people have had enough of the Bush/Cheney administration, but I would be thrilled if Meacham got his way.