- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Lynne Cheney, the wife of Republican vice-presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney, may be the most outspoken member of the Bush-Cheney team..
Known as a culture warrior who vociferously opposed political correctness during her tenure as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities during the Reagan and Bush years, she has spent the past eight years writing and commenting on American education policy.
Mrs. Cheney, 59, also cut her political teeth by serving as a commentator on CNN's now-defunct "Crossfire Sunday" talk show from 1995 to 1998.
Following are excerpts from yesterday's interview she had with culture page editor Julia Duin.

Q: As the wife of a possible future vice president, would you make education your cause?
A: Yes.
Q: What would be your emphasis?
A: I've really been concentrating on kindergarten through 12th grade. I still will make a foray once in a while into higher education if there seems to be a reason.
I helped found the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and one of the people on my council is [Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph I.] Lieberman, which is sort of curious.
My own personal research has been in kindergarten through 12th [grade]. I've been particularly concerned with reading and math, and surprised, as I look at reading and math instruction in this country, to see how far divorced it is from a research base.
Reading is taught in ways that positively counter ways that research shows is the most effective way, which is extensive and systematic instruction in phonics. Whole language still prevails in many, many schools in this country.
And "fuzzy math" has been somewhat of a cause of mine. There is no research base showing it is effective. It is so counter-intuitive. They think that little kids should devise their own way of multiplying or discover the Pythagorean theorem for themselves when they get a little bit older.
Q: Do you think political correctness still rules on college campuses or has the problem abated?
A: I haven't spent as much time focusing on that, but I certainly think it's still there. But when I read the newsletter of the American Council of Trustees and Alums, I find numerous examples of it.
I have another formulation I frequently use: Defending free speech. Because that's what political correctness is: it's a real threat to free expression, the open clash of ideas to all those things we've valued in this country.
Q: What is the biggest education crisis facing this country and how would you tackle it?
A: I think it's the achievement gap. If you look at what's happened, particularly in the last eight years, there's been a widening of the gap between Anglo students and African-American students. I often think of it between students who come with some advantage to school, on the whole, and students who come to school with few advantages, on the whole.
I think that's a very dangerous thing for a society when education is the key to moving upward in this society.
One of the things I'm glad to be associated with the Bush campaign for is, the governor has done a lot about this in Texas. In Texas, African-American and Hispanic fourth graders do better on tests than do Hispanic and African-American fourth graders in the other states.
The Rand Institute in California independent, certainly not conservative or liberal put out a report last month showing that Texas students in all demographic groups had advanced further than students in any other state in the country.
I think that for students in disadvantaged homes, it's absolutely essential, particularly in reading, to make clear what the steps in reading are. If you're a little kid who comes from a house where people have been sounding out words for you since you were 2 years old, you may be able to get through a curriculum that doesn't have phonics and learn to read successfully. A lot of kids do.
But if you come from a home where that hasn't happened, it's all the more imperative you get that step-by-step, basic readiness for reading that will help you to be successful.
The Clinton administration doesn't care about that all. Their reading programs don't have that in it. And education interest groups object to phonics-based approaches to reading for reasons that are mysterious.
Q: Would you accept an appointment as education secretary?
A: Well, that's nothing I'm even thinking about. I'm in the middle of writing a book, for one thing [on American education]. My goal is getting that book finished, and I must confess I haven't done much on it for the last six weeks. That's the direction I'm taking.
What I've also done for the past five years is visit schools. Were Dick to be vice president, I could visit those same schools.
Q: Would you try to change the department at all or have some kind of influence on it?
A: I think if I'm writing my book and visiting schools, I probably don't need to be telling other members of the Bush administration what to do.
Q: As a writer and former editor, how do you assess the coverage you and your husband have gotten so far from the national media?
A: It seems unbalanced. There just seems to be divergence between what the campaign feels like out there on the road and reports I read of it in certain media outlets.
For example, Dick and I rode the [elevated train in Chicago] for a Taste of Polonia food festival [Monday]. It was an amazing event. Dick polkaed with Miss Polish America and I served pirogi and that was wonderful.
But I noticed from some of the reports there were comments from people one in particular made it into every report of a taxi driver who was in our train who said he was really for Gore. Now that's fine, but I don't usually notice that in reports of what's going on with the other side.
Q: What's been the biggest surprise to you so far in this campaign?
A: I guess the intensity of it. It's a little bit like being doused by a fire hose. Even though I've been around politics for a long time. I guess it's the intensity of the media coverage.
When we were in Dallas, before Dick was officially announced, all of the [television] sound trucks started pulling up around our house. I kind of expected that. I even wasn't surprised when [their transmitter poles] went up. But I was surprised when I was walking down the hall when one of [them] had a camera on it looking through the window over our front door.
So, any time you walked out one of the rooms in the front hallway and down the hall, you were on television. That may not be intensity, it's intrusion.
Q: What is your faith background and how would your beliefs affect public policy?
A: Dick and I are both Methodists. Dick's parents were Methodist. I grew up Presbyterian. So we became members of the Methodist church [in Casper, Wyo.]
Dick and I have always felt that the best way to demonstrate faith wasn't so much to talk about it, but to try to have it inform the way you act and the way you deal with other people. So I guess it would be a quiet kind of influence.
Q: So we're not going to hear about Jesus Christ being your favorite philosopher, or like Joseph I. Lieberman, talking about God in every speech?
A: Well, we've been thinking of naming our plane the "Amazing Grace." The vice-presidential nominees have their own planes. Ours is an old Bush plane. The primary motivating reason behind that is our youngest granddaughter is named Grace and ["Amazing Grace"] is our favorite hymn.
Q: Do you think the National Endowment for the Humanities is still, as you said a few years ago, in thrall to political correctness? Should it be abolished?
A: I have not spent the last eight years poring over grants given by the NEH. But since 1994, when the Republicans took over the Congress, we certainly haven't seen obvious examples of problems.
The person I credit with this a lot is [Ohio Rep.] Ralph Regula, who is now the chairman of the [House Appropriations interior subcommittee], which holds the lifeblood of the two agencies [NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts].
You wouldn't call Ralph conservative. I think he's a very moderate Republican. But I think he's made it very clear that if these agencies are going to use taxpayer money in ways that are irresponsible, they do so at their peril. And I don't think they've been doing it.
Q: Will your daughters stump for you as Al Gore's daughters are stumping for him?
A: Mary, our younger daughter, is working in the campaign. There's a campaign job called 'the body person' and that's the person who sticks with the candidate and knows where the candidate is. She makes sure somebody brought lunch up, that he gets someplace on time. She delayed her entry into business school until January. Our older daughter, Liz, is helping with debate preparation.
Q: How has having a gay daughter affected your stance on issues like the Boy Scouts, gays in military, same-sex "marriages" and gays on campus?
A: Basically, I don't talk about Mary's personal life. We kind of have a mother-daughter agreement. I don't talk about her personal life and she doesn't talk about mine.
Q: But as far as these issues?
A: But it would be to talk about her personal life to try to relate it to public-policy issues. It seems unfair to Mary. No other child of any major candidate has had people quite so interested in her personal life and I certainly don't want to do anything to encourage that.
She's an absolutely wonderful young woman. She's really a private person. Although it is not possible to preserve her privacy, I try as hard as I can to.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide