- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2000

After the battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington commented that the victory over Napoleon was really won on the playing fields of Eton. His observations about early preparation and his strategy for victory should be instructive to President-elect George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

For eight long years, Republicans have operated on the premise that if the facts are on your side, then by definition you should win. In fact, President Clinton has been handing the Republican Party its lunch with the notable exception of 1994, since he assumed the presidency.

Preparation and never giving up ground not only worked for Wellington, it has been and should continue to work for team Bush.

For instance, moving ahead with the transition, despite the partisan behavior of Mr. Clinton's General Services Administration, is not only strategically smart for Mr. Bush in terms of moving the ball down the field and forcing closure to the nonsense in Florida, but it sends the right message to the American people. They need not fear for the survival of the Republic and that our government continues on in a stable fashion.

Disturbingly, however, Democrat names were immediately floated either out of Austin or Capitol Hill for potential Bush administration positions. These include North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt for secretary of education and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn for secretary of defense. On Wednesday the press corps asked Dick Cheney at least three times if he has talked to Democrats on the Hill, as if they should have some kind of influence over the decision-making process.

Mr. Bush has won. So why would he hand over the keys of the kingdom to those he has just defeated? Mr. Hunt is a liberal who would fight Mr. Bush's education reform proposals at every turn and would take the phone call of the president of the National Education Association over the phone call of the president of the United States. Opposition to Mr. Nunn should be if only for the atrocious way he treated John Tower in 1993.

Uncharacteristically, the GOP and the Bush team fought back in the state of Florida. Immediately following the election, Republicans looked like the Keystone Cops of spin. The Gore lawyers were dispatched and Jesse Jackson's rent-a-riot was in full-throated indignation. Meanwhile many Republicans were resigned to defeat, secretly saying, "here we go again," comparing Florida to the government shutdown, Waco, Elian and impeachment. In each of these cases, Republicans deluded themselves into thinking that the facts were on their side and that alone would save them. But in the new bloodless civil war in which the GOP finds itself, the facts are cold comfort, especially when you are losing every battle.

In this new civil war, Republicans met the Democrats on their own terms, "radicalized" in Bob Dole's phrase, by the Cook County methods Bill Daley's legion of political hacks were attempting to use to count Mr. Bush out. These "New Republicans" who flooded the streets of Miami and Tallahassee boosted the resolute attitude of the Bush campaign and sent a message to the media and to the Gore campaign that this is a different Republican Party, a party that would not lie down.

President-elect Bush should take this attitude to the White House and not approach his forthcoming administration in the context of the Florida debacle. Nervous nellies in the GOP will tell him he should reach out to Democrats and in essence form a coalition government. The pseudo-intellectuals who dominate the editorial staffs at The Washington Post and the New York Times who talk among themselves at the white wine receptions in Manhattan and Georgetown will echo the same sentiment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Bush should follow the example of President Truman, who governed with authority and earned the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike.

Mr. Bush should understand that in this town it is more important to be respected than to make friends. One signal to the country of his decisive leadership would be for President-elect Bush to nominate Lynne Cheney for secretary of education. Mrs. Cheney is eminently qualified for the position, through her work as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and in her writings and speeches, she has shown herself to be a formidable advocate for raising education standards in the United States. Liberals, of course, will object to the idea of a second lady's also serving as a Cabinet member on grounds that it's unprecedented. Well, when was the last time a first lady attempted to hijack one-seventh of the American economy through her collectivist health care plan or run for the United States Senate in a state she had previously only changed planes in?

Lynne Cheney is also tough, smart and, as one wag described her, "a chocolate covered hammer." Who among the members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions could match her intellectual firepower? Imagine her confirmation hearings before that committee, Lynne Cheney versus Hillary Rodham Clinton. In that contest, our money would be on Mrs. Cheney. Odd, isn't it, that whenever a qualified conservative woman is put forward for or occupies a position of power, liberals suddenly turn sexist.

The bottom line is that in dealing with one of the nation's critical domestic problems, the incoming Bush administration needs more than a conventional political choice. It needs the most qualified person available. While vice president's wives normally spend time traveling or posing for pictures, Mrs. Cheney has much more to offer her country.

"Secretary Cheney" has a familiar, but refreshing ring to it.

Craig Shirley is president of Craig Shirley & Associates, where Diana Banister serves as vice president.

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