- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000


Republicans yesterday extolled the virtues of Richard B. Cheney his high-level government experience and foreign affairs expertise as Democrats denounced his House voting record on abortion, guns and the environment.
"I'm really delighted with the choice Governor Bush has made in his running mate. More than anything else I was impressed with the job he did as secretary of defense," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
His counterpart, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said, "He's probably as far right as anybody in the Republican party today. It really represents the extreme side of the party."
Summing up reaction from the two sides succinctly, the Senate minority leader concluded: "I think you can say both parties are pleased with the nomination."
Indeed they are. Mr. Bush's choice will placate doubters who think the Texas governor is a lightweight unprepared for the presidency as Democrats see fresh fodder to hit Mr. Bush's choice for being tied to his father, President Bush, the GOP's right wing and his favorite special interest, the oil business.
"Cheney's not very flashy, but he reinforces the conservative base of the party," said C. Boyden Gray, who was chief White House counsel during President Bush's administration.
"When it comes to veep debate, he'll know what to do, so there's no down side to Cheney. On the plus, he has the foreign policy experience that Bush doesn't have," he said.
Tom Cole, chief of staff to Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson, said Mr. Bush knew early that he needed to "convince the elite and national media that he was serious."
"He needed someone who had the experience and who people could recognize and remember and who is a team player. From a party aspect, Cheney keeps our base unified," Mr. Cole said. "He's a very good conservative but acceptable to every part of the Republican Party because he has a statesmanlike demeanor one suited for governing."
Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and frequently mentioned as a possible Cabinet officer if Mr. Bush is elected, noted that in "very difficult circumstances in the Panama invasion, during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Dick Cheney showed great strength of character, great understanding of the challenges."
Other Republicans said his character is above reproach. "You will hear the Democrats go after Cheney on issues but not on integrity," said John Weaver, chief strategist for Sen. John McCain's Republican nomination campaign. "And that's an added value of Bush's choosing him."
But Democrats yesterday said Mr. Bush made the selection because he knows he is not ready or able to be president.
"I think the governor was looking for someone with gravitas because he has been accused of not having sufficient gravitas for the presidency," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said Monday night on MSNBC.
"He selected someone who has that weight, has that credibility and formidability. But unfortunately for the governor, you can't graft gravitas.
"There is a kind of admission here on the candidacy of Governor Bush," Mr. Cuomo said.
Others said he is his father's choice from his father's era.
Mr. Cheney is a "retro pick" and "a card-carrying member of the old guard," said Douglas Hattaway, a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore.
Some Democrats pointed to a series of Cheney votes they consider out of the mainstream. Mr. Cheney, 59, served as President Ford's chief of staff, represented Wyoming in the House of Representatives for six terms and served as defense secretary under President Bush.
Mr. Cheney voted against the Equal Rights Amendment in 1983. In 1985, he voted against a ban on armor-piercing bullets. In 1986, he voted against a bill to ban the manufacture or import of plastic guns that cannot be detected in an airport metal detector. In 1987, Mr. Cheney was one of 26 House members who voted to sustain President Reagan's veto of the Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club said Mr. Cheney would be "a threat to the environment."
Mr. Cheney developed a lifetime score of 13 percent, according to the League of Conservation Voters.
Some moved to tie Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney to big oil. Both worked for oil companies in the private sector. The Democratic National Committee yesterday opened a Bush-Cheney Web site that features an oil well spouting dollar signs.
"A Bush-Cheney ticket would be just what the oil industry wants," said Robert Cox, president of the Sierra Club. "They both support weakening the Clean Air Act, oppose protection of public lands and have consistently opposed efforts to protect the health and safety of our environment."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said the Bush-Cheney pair is "probably the most anti-choice ticket we've ever had."
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said Mr. Cheney cast 27 votes on abortion during his six terms in Congress and "26 were anti-choice votes."
"A woman's right to choose would be in grave jeopardy from a George W. Bush-Richard Cheney administration," said Alice Germond, executive vice president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
"Both Bush and Cheney would appoint anti-choice Supreme Court justices and Cabinet officials, as well as sign legislation threatening reproductive rights.
"The line has been drawn and the choice Americans face is clear. It is now impossible for Bush to pretend that he is anything but solidly anti-choice."
NARAL emphasized that Mr. Cheney "voted to ban federal funding for abortion for low-income women, U.S. servicewomen stationed overseas and Peace Corps volunteers "even in cases of rape or incest or when the woman's life was in danger."
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart made light of speculation over Mr. Bush's choice Monday night at Camp David.
"I think Governor Bush promised that our eyes would light up when he made his decision," Mr. Lockhart said. "So my eyes are ready. We'll just have to see."
Both Republican and Democratic analysts agreed Mr. Cheney would help Mr. Bush with swing voters.
"Swing voters independents and disaffected Democrats not on the crackpot left will be reassured by Cheney," said Charles Cook, an independent political analyst who publishes the Cook Report. "They are saying they believe Al Gore is qualified. They just don't like him. He never connected with them."
Sean Scully contributed to this report.

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