- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas George W. Bush yesterday introduced his running mate, former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, to hundreds of cheering party loyalists and described him as a man whose integrity is respected even by Al Gore.
"I believe you are looking at the next vice president of the United States," a beaming Mr. Bush told the crowd at the University of Texas. "He is a man of integrity who is respected by Republicans and Democrats alike."
Mr. Cheney, who served as defense secretary under Mr. Bush's father, said he wanted to work with Mr. Bush "for the next three months and the next eight years."
"Big changes are coming to Washington, and I want to be a part of it," Mr. Cheney said. "I am absolutely confident we will prevail."
Turning to Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney said "Governor, I am honored and proud to join your team. I enthusiastically accept the challenge for this reason I believe you have the vision and the courage to be a great president."
The formal announcement of Mr. Cheney, whom the Texas governor had enlisted to lead the search for a running mate, ended several days of intense media speculation that Mr. Cheney had the inside track. Mr. Bush and his top advisers seemed eager to dispel criticism that the vice-presidential search had not been a fair process, pointing out that Mr. Cheney turned down Mr. Bush's initial offer in March while the two were dining at the governor's mansion.
"As we worked to evaluate the strengths of others, I saw firsthand Dick Cheney's outstanding judgment," Mr. Bush said. "Gradually, I realized that the person who was qualified to be my vice-presidential nominee was working by my side."
Mr. Bush yesterday telephoned several other candidates who didn't make the grade, including his primary rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said he had a "great conversation" with Mr. McCain, who had asked not to be considered as a running mate.
The duo was such a mutual admiration society yesterday that the candidates barely mentioned their opponent, Mr. Gore, except when Mr. Bush talked of Mr. Cheney's reputation for integrity.
"Even my opponent … once said Dick Cheney is a good man who is well liked and respected by his colleagues," Mr. Bush said.
The new Republican running mates will make their first campaign trip today to Mr. Cheney's home state of Wyoming, where he transferred his voter registration on Friday to avoid a constitutional glitch involving both running mates residing in the same state.
Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top campaign strategist, said of Mr. Cheney, "This guy's going to be a fabulous performer on the campaign trail. He's great on TV."
Neither Mr. Bush, 54, nor Mr. Cheney yesterday mentioned the health of Mr. Cheney, 59, who suffered three heart attacks before age 48 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 1988. But the campaign issued a letter from Mr. Cheney's primary care physician, Dr. Gary Malakoff of Washington, who said he leads a "rigorous lifestyle" despite coronary artery disease that is treated with medication.
"Mr. Cheney is in excellent health," Dr. Malakoff wrote. "He is up to the task of the most sensitive public office."
On CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Mr. Cheney said he hasn't had any heart problems since his surgery in August 1988.
"I've given up smoking, exercise regularly, try to watch what I eat," he said.
He added that he supervised the Persian Gulf War in 1991, three years after his bypass operation.
"I can't think of a more stressful situation than that," Mr. Cheney said. "I've always lived and operated in a fairly intense environment."
Mr. Cheney is the top executive at Halliburton Co. of Dallas, an energy and construction firm that he will be leaving shortly.
Protestations of good health aside, even Mr. Cheney, a former congressman, acknowledged that he had no intention of returning to public life when Mr. Bush asked him to scrutinize vice-presidential candidates in April.
"I was deeply involved in running a business, enjoying private life," Mr. Cheney said. Halliburton paid him $1.28 million in salary and $640,914 in other compensation last year, plus stock options worth at least $7.4 million. In 1998, he earned $4.4 million plus stock options.
But Mr. Cheney said this spring he had "an experience that changed my mind."
"As I worked alongside Governor Bush, I heard him talk about his unique vision for our party and for our nation," Mr. Cheney said. "I saw his sincerity; I watched him make decisions, always firm, and always fair. And in the end, I learned how persuasive he can be."
Questions lingered yesterday about whether Mr. Bush had ever seriously considered another candidate, or had simply kept close to him the man he wanted all along.
Mrs. Hughes said Mr. Cheney had presented Mr. Bush with a list of "viable candidates," but nobody described a scenario in which Mr. Bush had considered anyone as favorably as Mr. Cheney.
"The search process was a sincere effort," Mrs. Hughes said. "They obviously developed a bond."
Mr. Cheney said on "Larry King" there were other "really outstanding candidates" for vice president besides himself.
"In the end we decided on me, but it's not a reflection on the lack of quality," Mr. Cheney said.
The pace of Mr. Cheney's candidacy accelerated over the Fourth of July holiday, when Mr. Cheney and his wife visited the Bush ranch at Crawford, Texas, ostensibly to talk about other candidates. The two men spoke for several hours alone, then joined their wives for a lunch of sandwiches.
Laura Bush remembers her husband saying at that time of Mr. Cheney, "This would really be the best man if he would do it. I wish he would."
After lunch, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney retreated alone to a porch, and Mr. Bush asked him again to be considered. This time, Mr. Cheney said he would ask his family. That, Mrs. Hughes said, began a process in earnest of vetting Mr. Cheney, a task overseen by campaign manager Joseph Allbaugh.
Asked on "Larry King Live" about claims that the Bush-Cheney ticket is the "most conservative ever," Mr. Cheney replied, "I don't know that it's the most conservative ever. I remember a man named Barry Goldwater… . Ronald Reagan was a conservative. Certainly, I do have a conservative record, and I'm proud of it."
Mr. Cheney, who had a consistently pro-life voting record in the House, also downplayed abortion as a campaign issue.
"I don't think it should be a defining issue," he said. "We've got to … look for ways for a common solution and hopefully give maximum protection for life."

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