That's the real reason I don't find this bumper sticker as reassuring as I should. It's not only that the deadline still leaves 14 months and 4 days for Bush to screw up, the consequences of which we'll have to live with a lot longer than that -- such as bombing Iran, for example.
It's mainly that the sign only refers to Bush, not Bush and Cheney. That's because the Constitution says nothing about a vice presidential term limit. Here's the relevant part of the 22nd Amendment:
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term [a term is four years] to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.Nothing there about any restriction on the term of the vice president, nor anywhere else in the Constitution. Vice presidents can serve as long as they want (if their party will have them). Of course, prior to Cheney, the office was considered so undesirable, nobody would have wanted to serve more than two terms. So it would have seemed silly to even talk about prohibiting it.
Now it's a whole new ballgame, and Cheney seems to be writing the rulebook as he goes along. He apparently was the first person to ever really appreciate how remarkably well-suited the vice presidential bunker is to exercising power without leaving too many fingerprints at all (especially if the courts are mostly friendly toward your administration).
Cheney seems to enjoy the power. Why should he give it up? All he has to do is find another front man. Giuliani could strut while Cheney ruled, and both men's temperaments would find their perfect expression. Ditto McCain. Ditto Romney.
All along, it has seemed strange that in the midst of an unpopular war the Republican candidates have done so little to distance themselves from the administration. Maybe they know something we don't. It's not hard to imagine a scenario in which Cheney is "drafted" to remain in place.
For example, imagine that Iran provokes us unforgivably (or is portrayed as doing so in the all too complaisant media) just before the Republican convention. A "reluctant" President Bush is forced to fight back. The Republican nominee appoints Cheney as the vice presidential candidate in a patriotic show of national unity and purpose -- and they hit the campaign trail lashing out at Democrats who want to surrender to the aggressor. With the help of more than a little Election Helper on election night, the two Republicans sweep to an easy election and reelection, respectively.
Yes, George Bush will leave office on a winter day in January, 2009. But it could be a cold day in hell before Cheney ever leaves.