Dick Cheney is seasoned when it comes to picking running mates — he helped Gerald Ford choose his No. 2 in 1976 and, 24 years later, headed the VP search committee that picked himself to run alongside George W. Bush. So naturally, in Cheney's first interview since getting a heart transplant, ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked about Mitt Romney's looming VP selection. Cheney's advice: Don't pick someone like Sarah Palin. (Watch a video below.) The test has to be, "Is this person capable of being president of the United States?" Cheney said. "I like Governor Palin. I've met her. I know her. [She's an] attractive candidate. But based on her background, she'd only been governor for, what, two years. I don't think she passed that test." Choosing her, Cheney added, was a "mistake." Among those who disagree: Cheney's daughter Liz and the man who picked Palin, Sen. John McCain, who shot back on Monday that he's "proud of the job [Palin] did." What was Cheney thinking? Here, four takeaways:
1. Cheney might be dropping a clue about Romney's VP pick
This is rich: "A guy who served under an underinformed and incurious governor-turned-president thinks it was a bad idea for John McCain to pick an underinformed and incurious governor as his running mate," says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. But then again, maybe Cheney is trying to give Romney political cover when he picks a boring but experienced No. 2 like Rob Portman. Under Cheney's rules, "Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Perry would remain on the list," too, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But more inexperienced pols "like Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, Susana Marinez, Nikki Haley, and perhaps even Bob McDonnell" would be out of luck.
2. Cheney is trying to undermine Palin
"Nothing from Cheney is said in a vacuum," so there must be "some reason he's saying this publicly, now," says John Aravosis at America Blog. Maybe he's worried that Palin will somehow screw up the election for the GOP, and he's "trying to shut Palin up, force her out of the picture." Whatever his motive, "it will be interesting to see if Palin's take-no-prisoners supporters on the web lash back at the former veep," says Mark Halperin at TIME.
3. Plenty of Republicans agree... at least privately
"Cheney is right" about Palin, "and I suspect that most mainline conservatives and Republicans agree with him now," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. So I wonder how controversial this really is. Well, party insiders may call Palin a bad choice in private, but Cheney is now "one of the few high-profile Republicans" to say it publicly, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. But at least public opinion is squarely on Cheney's side: After years of rising unfavorable ratings, Palin is now "one of the most unpopular politicians in the country."
4. Conservatives may struggle to pick sides between Cheney and Palin
Establishment Republicans may despise McCain's 2008 pick, but "Whoo-ee!" — Palin is certainly "beloved by the conservative base," says Hot Air's Morrissey. Of course, so is Cheney, "so I'm not sure which will get beat up more over this commentary." Ugh, says Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. Defending Palin's qualifications is a silly, "fruitless enterprise," and conservatives would be best served just letting this comment slide and moving on to the next mini-outrage of the campaign.