- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

Ask any political analyst to list the the ideal characteristics for a running mate for George W. Bush, and the pundit would describe somebody who is telegenic, well-spoken, intelligent and Catholic. He'd also be conservative enough to energize the Republican "base" but thoughtful and moderate of demeanor, be recognized by the press for being substantive on policy, and would boast a record of bipartisan accomplishment. Finally, he (or she) would hail from a state of great electoral importance, be a few years younger than Mr. Bush but with considerable Washington experience, and be particularly strong on issues where Vice President Gore is noticeably vulnerable.

In short, the pundit would describe U.S. Rep. Chris Cox of California, the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

By all accounts, ranging from those of columnist Bob Novak to the Associated Press and the Austin American Statesman, Mr. Cox has emerged from "dark horse" status to reach Mr. Bush's proverbial "short list" of vice presidential possibilities.

Here's why George W. Bush needs Chris Cox:

• Mr. Cox is the "security" candidate. He's about the only person around who's well-versed, even expert, on three of this campaign's top issues: national security, Social Security and financial securities.

On national security, he's an authority on Asia, on technology transfers to China, on nuclear espionage and on Russia. On the first three, he is of course well-known for crafting a unanimous, bipartisan consensus for the so-called "Cox Report." He has a long history of demonstrating expertise on Russian issues, and even speaks Russian. And he's a strong supporter of missile defense.

Those are all areas, of course, on which Mr. Gore should be politically vulnerable.

On Social Security, he's an eloquent advocate of the kind of investment plan that Mr. Bush advocates. "If we leave Social Security exactly as it is," he told me in April, "it's poised to go off a cliff … And that threatens the future for today's younger workers."

Finally, on an issue of crucial import for the stock market boom that has turned a majority of Americans into an "investor class," Mr. Cox was the author of the only bill ever to be voted into law over Mr. Clinton's veto. Called the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, it protects shareholders from spurious, "fishing expedition" lawsuits.

• If Al Gore is a cyber-Geek, Chris Cox is cyber-cool. Mr. Cox doesn't loudly and ludicrously claim that he created the Internet, but coolly goes about his business while dictating speeches into a hand-held device that converts his words into print. Name a new technology, and he likely already uses it. Guess which of the two men will earn more votes from "new economy" workers from Silicon Valley to Seattle?

• Mr. Cox is pithy and seemingly unflappable. He knows how to start every answer with a good sound bite and then follow up with a concise and detailed explication. For instance, as a guest on New Orleans' WTIX radio station recently, he was pressed by anti-China trade host Ed Butler on why he voted for Permanent Normal Trading Relations. "Because I was able to amend the bill to help promote human rights," Mr. Cox immediately answered. Great sound bite.

• Then there's California. Recent polls in that electoral-vote Mecca show a Gore lead ranging from 11 points down to merely three. Mr. Cox is no guarantee to carry the state for George Bush. But he would clearly put California in play and make the Gore campaign spend precious time and money defending the veep's lead. Not only would Mr. Cox, 47, appeal to the state's boomers (and those across the country) and its high-tech industry, as well as energize the conservative base without unduly scaring Democratic voters, but he also could help the Republican Party rebuild its support within a key California ethnic group.

The chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, attorney Donald Casper, notes that one of the main causes of the party's California collapse in the 1990s was its precipitous loss of popularity among Americans of Asian descent. But there are few members in all of Congress who more passionately promote the cultural and economic importance of the Pacific Rim, or more effectively criticize the Red Chinese leadership without demonizing its broader populace, than does Mr. Cox.

Finally, as an added bonus, a Cox candidacy would probably make it easier for a President Bush to govern, by helping ensure a Republican majority in Congress. Five California House seats are tottering but by turning out the Republican base, candidate Cox could help save them.

In sum, the brainy Mr. Cox former editor of the Harvard Law Review, and someone well-respected by the press is just the right prescription for a Bush campaign looking for a politically potent blend of energy and gravitas. Like Ronald Reagan before him, Mr. Cox is somebody conservatives can rally around, while expanding the party's base. In short, he's as perfect a vice presidential choice as Republicans have ever found.

Quin Hillyer is an editorial writer for the Mobile Register.

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