- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

PHILADELPHIA. The Dick Cheney nomination is good for education. That's because his wife Lynne is a rigorous critic of what's wrong with public schools, the textbooks and curriculum as well as the mush of multiculturalism that seeps into the classrooms at our finest colleges and universities.
Talk about a bully pulpit. She can be a spokeswoman for restoring the dignity of honest intellectual debate, focusing like a laser (remember that expression) to expose the muddled thinking that corrupts academia and the rest of our culture.
As a veep's wife she can show what's rotten in the culture with the zest and zeal Betty Ford brought to drug abuse. Feminists who say they like strong, intelligent, intellectually independent women will get their wish in Lynne Cheney.
But certain feminists only like women who agree with them, and Lynne Cheney is not a "go along" kind of woman. She is if you will excuse the sexist phrase "her own man." You can read that firsthand in her book, "Telling the Truth: Why Our Culture and Our Country Have Stopped Making Sense and What We Can Do About It," first published in 1995. Margaret Thatcher praised her for standing up to the bullies of political correctness, and George Will wanted to award her the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the culture war.
When she was director of the National Endowment for the Humanities she discovered that humanities texts had been transformed into political documents, "reduced to issues of gender, race and class." Homer, Shakespeare and Milton were denigrated as "male chauvinists" and there was a determined attempt to get them out of the classroom, the effects of which are still with us today. (Without irony, some pundits, even those who married one, have sneered at Dick Cheney "as just another white male.")
Mrs. Cheney wrote her doctoral thesis on Matthew Arnold, whose guiding principle for studying the humanities was "a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world." This is what must be restored to education in America.
"Lynne Cheney has the quaint notion that our universities ought to uphold the ethical and professional standards they profess integrity, competence, civility, common decency," says Eugene Genovese, a scholar and proponent of academic freedom who staunchly defends her criticism of the academy.
Dick Cheney says he wants to restore a spirit of civility in Washington, which is a reflection of his political style. Mrs. Cheney wants to revitalize our understanding of compassion, returning it to its original meaning.
She recounts a terrible murder in South Philadelphia in 1994, when a man operating a Mr. Softee ice cream truck was killed by a 16-year-old when he wouldn't give up his money. What extended the shock of this sordid episode was that as the driver lay dying in the street, neighborhood teen-agers composed a rap song on the spot: "They Killed Mr. Softee." When the dying man's friend, another ice cream salesman arrived, the teen-agers ignored his grief and, laughing, demanded that he give them ice cream. Death was depersonalized.
For the perception of compassion that was absent from this scene, Mrs. Cheney, blames a culture of divisiveness that emanates from an intellectual elite celebrating differences and victimhood rather than the richness of a common humanity.
She echoes columnist Bob Greene, who fears that America has increasingly become "a nation of citizens who watch anything and everything as if it is all a show."
The Democrats who scorn George W. Bush's choice of Dick Cheney along with much of the punditocracy deride him for having the admirable qualities of a public servant rather than the showier talents of a performer: "Where's the pizzazz? Where's the sizzle?" Perhaps they prefer an actor out of the TV show, "West Wing," than a real-life chief of staff and defense secretary (though many of these same critics derided Ronald Reagan for "acting"). Where's the seriousness?
Mr. Cheney offers plenty of that, with gravitas (this week's clich), but if you want snap, crackle and pop, keep your eyes focused on the second lady (in waiting).

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