Sounds like a plan. Bush gets a dose of credibility, the White House gets a deft, likeable diplomat, and Fred gets a rocket ride with this bombing administration, Slim-Pickens-like, down to whatever explosive denouement awaits.

I expect the Thompson camp will politely decline.

I remember Barry Goldwater sitting in my parents’ living room in 1973, in the last days of Watergate, debating whether to lead a group of senior Republicans to the White House to tell President Nixon he had to go. His hesitation was that he felt loyalty to the president and the party. But in the end he felt a greater loyalty to his country, and he went to the White House.

Today, another group of party elders, led by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, could well do the same. They could act out of concern for our country’s plummeting reputation throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.

For such a plan to work, however, they would need a ready replacement. Until recently, there hasn’t been an acceptable alternative to Cheney — nor has there been a persuasive argument to convince President Bush to make a change. Now there is…

Everybody loves Fred. He has the healing qualities of Gerald Ford and the movie-star appeal of Ronald Reagan. He is relatively moderate on social issues. He has a reputation as a peacemaker and a compromiser. And he has a good sense of humor.

He could be just the partner to bring out Bush’s better nature — or at least be a sensible voice of reason. I could easily imagine him telling the president, “For God’s sake, do not push that button!” — a command I have a hard time hearing Cheney give.

Yeah, I don’t know. Is that why most of the people here like Fred? My sense is that they like him because he might not say that.

He’s up four now on Rudy in the latest Rasmussen, by the way, and down only six in the RCP average. The crazier the hype gets, the more room for disappointment there’ll be, and it’s going to come back to bite him, I think. Not in the primary necessarily, since Republicans are desperate for someone to believe in and will be willing to overlook a lot to make that happen, but in the general he’s going to look and sound too similar to Bush. And if Americans are given a symbolic choice between revisiting the Bush years or the Clinton years…

Well, let’s hope they don’t have to make that choice. Incidentally, be on the lookout for the left playing up the fact that Sally Quinn seems to think highly of Fred. She’s the consummate Washington insider and tarring him with that by association dovetails with their emphasis on his lobbyist past.