- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Vice-presidential candidate Richard B. Cheney arrived in the host city of the Republican National Convention yesterday, boasting of his voting record as a six-term congressman and calling himself a Reagan Republican.
"I am proud of my record voting for smaller government, for lower taxes, for stronger defense policies of Ronald Reagan in those years," he said to cheers.
While Republicans have been eager to play up Mr. Cheney's experience and Democrats have labeled him more conservative than Newt Gingrich the running mate of Gov. George W. Bush moved as both a Washington insider and an outside-the-Beltway businessman. He noted that after 25 years in the nation's capital he left five years ago to run a private oil business in Texas.
"When you're outside looking back in, quite frankly, sometimes you end up scratching your head and wondering what the hell they are doing back there," he said, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd, which included most of the 30 Republican governors.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, soundly defeated by Mr. Bush in the Republican primary battle, yesterday urged his delegates to support the Texas governor's nomination for president.
Mr. McCain had only about 160 delegates, but his decision to hand them over to Mr. Bush underscored an unparalleled unity on display here.
"I need every one of you to give [the Bush] campaign the same amount of enthusiasm and participation you did for our primary campaign," he told his delegates.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Cheney appeared on several political talk shows and defended his conservative voting record as the Wyoming representative in the House of Representatives throughout the 1980s. Democrats are airing ads attacking his House votes, particularly his votes against high-powered ammunition that can pierce bulletproof vests, the Head Start children's program and the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as his support for abolishing the Department of Education.
"I'm proud of my record in the Congress, [but] I think anybody would have to say, 'Well, I'm going back at 2,000 votes, I might find a couple I would do differently,' " he said. On the other hand, he said, "I haven't changed my position."
He said Democrats are not discussing the votes in context, picking on specific votes that were taken under specific circumstances. The vote on the high-powered ammunition, for example, was taken under House rules that did not allow any amendments, which prompted him to vote against the specific language of the bill, which he felt infringed the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
One commercial, which aides said would run in selected areas of the country beginning today, described Mr. Cheney as "one of only eight members of Congress to oppose the Clean Water Act, one of the few to vote against Head Start. He even voted against the school lunch program, against health insurance for people who lost their jobs… ."
"What are their plans for working families?" the ad concludes.
Mr. Cheney said the Gore campaign is a continuation of the Clinton presidency.
"What we find with the Gore camp is very much a continuation of the Clinton approach to governing. They're already out with attack ads in the middle of our convention, which is something that ordinarily is not done. Their whole style of campaigning is very much built around negative assault on the opposition rather than offering any positive vision for the country," Mr. Cheney said.
Mr. Cheney also turned the tables on Vice President Al Gore by reaching back to votes he and the former senator from Tennessee cast on Capitol Hill in 1981.
"They mentioned Head Start. I can find a vote where I voted for a 16 percent increase in Head Start funding and Al Gore voted against it," he said.
The vice-presidential candidate also said he hoped that if the media were to go back through his record they would do the same with Mr. Gore.
While in the House, Mr. Gore voted against the Reagan tax cuts of 1981, and also voted in the Senate against the 1986 tax reform package. The National Taxpayers Union says Mr. Gore was the only senator ever to win the NTU award for biggest spender in two consecutive years, beating out Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, in 1989 and 1990.
To suggest that Mr. Cheney is acceptable to the centrist or liberal wing of the party, rally organizers had him introduced yesterday by New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who disagrees sharply with Mr. Cheney's pro-life stand on abortion.
Mr. Cheney "has a wealth of broad experience that he is going to bring to the White House and stand next to our new president of the United States," she said. "He is someone we can be proud of as Republicans."
The low-key Mr. Cheney made a high-energy entrance to Philadelphia, arriving at a downtown hotel days before his would-be boss comes to town. It was his first introduction to the thousands of Republican convention delegates who will nominate him formally later this week.
"Our party is united, our purpose is clear, our cause is just," he said. "George Bush will be the next president of the United States."
The rally was substantially different from previous rallies in the meticulously planned Bush campaign, having a distinctly hurried air around it. Mr. Cheney is still trying to gather his own press staff, so Bush campaign staffers filled in, hurriedly hand-lettering pro-Cheney signs and distributing an odd assortment of pompoms and foam rubber objects for those in the audience to wave in celebration.
Mr. Cheney was backed by a large group of Wyoming delegates and guests, many of whom appeared to be unsure how to behave in the national spotlight. Republican staffers had to run them through practice cheers several times before Mr. Cheney arrived. Staff and even television cameramen had to remind them repeatedly to cheer for the cameras.
They seemed, however, immensely pleased to have a fellow Wyoming resident on the national ticket.
"He's going to do a great job," said Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican. "He will bring real change he'll be a good honest straight shooter."
He conceded, however, that Mr. Cheney's sudden rise to prominence was "certainly something of a surprise."

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