WASHINGTON, DCAs President Bush's public-approval ratings hit an all-time low, Vice-President Dick Cheney announced Monday that he has been "forced" to throw his hat into the ring for the 2004 presidential race.
"Enough is enough,'" the visibly annoyed Cheney said at a morning press conference. "George blew the whole Iraqi prison-abuse speech, and he barely did better with his Nicholas Berg reaction. Now he's below 50 percent in the polls. I'm sorry, but I can't allow him to drag me down with him in November."
"Do I have to do everything around here?" Cheney asked, pausing to gesture angrily around the White House. "I guess I do."
While Cheney has not yet chosen a running mate, he said it "certainly will not be the president."
"I ordered him not to get up there and talk about gay marriage last week, but he insisted," Cheney added. "He said, 'This will work.' Yeah, it worked to alienate a ton of voters. I'm sorry, but he's out."
Cheney said that, while he would rather not run for president, Bush has left him little choice.
"I was perfectly happy letting George take the spotlight," Cheney said. "If things didn't look so grim, I would've continued to direct the re-election campaign from the wings. But I could see that it was time to get outnow, before the first debate."
The announcement of Cheney's bid for the presidency came as a major surprise, even to political insiders.
"It seems sudden, but it's not," he said. "I've been mulling this over ever since the last State Of The Union address, to be honest. I decided to go through with it last night, when I stopped by the president's office to discuss a speech I'd dropped off earlier that day and caught him sitting on the couch, watching Fox News and eating Fritos. He hadn't even picked the damn thing up. I exploded. I said, 'That's it. Next year, I'm running this country myself.'"
Some have called Cheney the most active vice-president in the history of the executive branch. Cheney characterized this view of his term as the "understatement of the year."
"Every damn thing he did right since 2000 I told him to do," Cheney said. "You think Afghanistan was his idea? The tax cuts? The Medicare bill? No, no, and no. But all my years of hard work go right down the drain when he stands up in front of everyone and mispronounces [Italian prime minister] Silvio Berlusconi's name."
According to the vice-president, the Cheney Administration would be much more streamlined and efficient than Bush's administration has been.
"Let me tell you this: It'd be a lot easier just to give a speech myself and do it right, rather than spending six hours trying to explain everything to the presidentonly to have him botch it anyway," Cheney said. "That 'I don't know what you're saying and I don't care' look in his eyes when I start talking policy drives me absolutely bonkers. And he wonders why the reporters are so hard on him."
Continued Cheney: "I spent days, literally days, talking him through the jobs-and-growth plan. But when he had to explain it on his own, he said, and this is a direct quote, 'I'd rather that, in order to get out of this recession, that the people be spending their money, not the government trying to figure out how to spend the people's money.'"
Disgusted, the vice-president threw his hands in the air.
"I don't have enough time in my day to spend half of it cleaning up George's mistakes," Cheney said. "I'd rather be preparing strategy for the next couple of wars. Those things don't just plan themselves."
Few White House officials question Cheney's intelligence, experience, or political effectiveness.
"Cheney's definitely got the chops for the job," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said. "Frankly, he's been very patient with the president. He's given him every chance to get his act together, but you can't keep your money on a losing horse."
Cheney's office has been busy preparing the necessary paperwork to run against Bush. However, he has not yet removed himself from the president's re-election ticket. Some say Bush campaign officials are trying to convince Cheney to remain on the Bush ticket, even if he runs against him.
"One thing is clear: There is no reason for Dick Cheney to leave the White House come January," Bush campaign advisor Karen Hughes said. "He's been doing a great job."
When pressed to name a possible running mate, Cheney was somewhat reserved.
"I don't want to tip my hand," Cheney said. "But right now I'm taking a good long look at the governor of Florida. He seems like he'd be a little easier to handle."