- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

PHILADELPHIA The milder half of the Republican presidential ticket the man who some feared would be too dull to motivate the electorate got the honor of throwing the first "red meat" to the faithful at the party's convention.
"We are all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine," Richard B. Cheney said in his first national showcase since being named the vice presidential running mate. "But the wheel has turned and it is time. It is time for them to go."
The tone was a marked shift from the convention, which has been pointedly upbeat and strangely devoid of references to President Clinton or Vice President Al Gore. It was also a change for the mild-mannered Mr. Cheney, who has barely mentioned his own running mate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, let alone attack his Democratic rivals in his few public remarks so far.
"They will make accusations. We will make proposals," a defiant Mr. Cheney said last night. "They will feed fear. We will appeal to hope. They will offer more lectures, legalisms, and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth."
Until now, convention speakers have largely contented themselves with oblique references and mild jokes at the expense of the Democrats. Even the party platform which four years ago was packed with pointed attacks on President Clinton barely refers to the opposition this year, to the point where Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton are never specifically named.
"I can't help but miss the good old days when we locked horns," Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the committee that investigated the 1996 fund-raising scandals that have dogged the administration, said before Mr. Cheney's speech.
"It's something of a risk to pass an opportunity such as the convention and not talk about things like the rule of law. You can do it without being mean-spirited. It's a bet on the Bush camp's part that the American people are tired of all things Washington."
Vice presidential candidates are traditionally expected to be the more aggressive voice in the campaign, freeing up the presidential contender to talk about policy and to appear to be above the fray. Mr. Bush's choice of the soft-spoken Mr. Cheney was widely seen as a signal that he would make good on his promise not to indulge in sharp political attacks.
And, although last night's speech was more aggressive than others at the convention, it was still relatively mild by the rough-and-tumble standards of recent presidential contests. Mr. Cheney emphasized the positive nature of Mr. Bush as much as he played up the negatives of the Clinton era.
"Big changes are coming to Washington," he said. "To serve with this man, in this cause, is a chance I would not miss."
Delegates seemed pleased by the flash of aggression displayed by Mr. Cheney. They said Mr. Cheney has the credibility and stature to make the point.
"I think it's important somebody makes clear why it's so important that we have a real change in this administration," said Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, one of the House managers that prosecuted the impeachment case against President Clinton. "This administration has brought disgrace to this country and has squandered opportunity."
State Sen. Jack Riggs of Idaho, one of the delegates who helped shape the new, less aggressive Republican platform this year, said he approves of the move, provided it doesn't signal a long-term negative turn in the campaign. Republicans have been genuinely frustrated by the Clinton Adminitration and its problems, and the convention can't completely ignore that.
"Probably, it is time to bring that up a little bit," he said.
Mr. Cheney has defended his record in recent days, but in a characteristically mild and cerebral manner. Last night, however, he lashed back with unexpected vigor.
"Does anyone, Republican or Democrat, seriously believe that under Mr. Gore, the next four years would be any different from the last?" he said.
Some Republicans had privately begun to worry that Mr. Cheney was too mild for the job. His campaign and press staff in Philadelphia have been in disarray.
Not only has the low-key former congressman from Wyoming avoided attacking Democrats, he has largely avoided speaking in public at all. Since he arrived in the convention city on Sunday, his public remarks have not lasted longer than about five minutes. He has appeared at only four formal events and seemed ill at ease with the adulation he has received.
"I have to tell you that I never expected to be in this position … . [But] I have been given an opportunity to serve beside a man who has the courage and the vision and the goodness to be a great president," he said last night.
Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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