- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

While Vice President Al Gore's agents, including the television networks and other liberal media outlets, were spending two days waging a blistering attack upon Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney for his 10-year voting record in the House of Representatives, the USA Today/CNN Gallup poll was asking nearly 650 likely voters whom they preferred for the White House. Despite the avalanche of negative attacks, the Bush-Cheney ticket prevailed over Mr. Gore by a startling 14 percentage points, 54 percent to 40 percent. The 14-point margin represented a 12-point gain compared to the results of the previous poll, which had been conducted before George W. Bush selected Mr. Cheney to be his running mate. By any standard, the addition of Mr. Cheney to the Republican ticket provided Mr. Bush with a huge pre-convention "bounce."
On Sunday, TV journalists parroted Democratic attacks on Mr. Cheney, a Beltway practice known as "giving Republicans a chance to respond" to respond to thoughtful, reasoned liberal character assassination. In practice, it goes something like the exchange between Sam Donaldson, co-host of ABC's "This Week," and Mr. Cheney:

Mr. Donaldson: "In 1987 you voted against reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, which calls for healthcare centers. It calls for Meals on Wheels. It calls for Alzheimer's research. It would have cost $1.6 billion. You were one of seven members of the House to vote against it. Why?"
Mr. Cheney: "Well, probably because I thought that it was excessive in terms of funding, because "
Mr. Donaldson: "One point six billion for older Americans?"
Mr. Cheney: "Well, you know, a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money. I consistently voted it was part of my record, part of my campaigns when we had big deficits I voted for fiscal responsibility. I voted against bills that I thought either authorized or appropriated too much fund."

There were two frail premises on which Mr. Donaldson based his questions. The first is that legislation in the name of "older Americans" is necessarily in the interest of older Americans. The second is that there are unlimited funds available for that purpose; one need not reduce spending elsewhere to cover the cost of Washington's good intentions. To his credit, Mr. Cheney refused to walk away from either his principles or his voting record.
To date, voters don't seem energized by attacks on that record. Having witnessed the slash-and-burn tactics that Mr. Gore used to destroy his honorable primary challenger, former Sen. Bill Bradley, and the extremely negative campaign Mr. Gore has waged against Mr. Bush since both captured their parties' nominations in early March, voters undoubtedly expected nothing different from the vice president and his allies. Mr. Gore et al. did not disappoint. He is a ruthless politician of whom one can credibly say: He will do and say anything to get elected president. Voters surely sense this.
It is worth noting what senior congressional Democrats had to say about Mr. Cheney when President Bush plucked him from Congress in March 1989 to be secretary of Defense. Tony Coelho, whose judgment Mr. Gore valued enough to hire him last year to run his campaign, said Mr. Cheney's nomination to head the Pentagon was "a smart move on the part of the president, but a great move on behalf of the country." Then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, whom Mr. Gore is considering naming as his running mate, praised Mr. Cheney for having "served with distinction in Congress." Mr. Gore himself said of Mr. Cheney, "He's a good guy. I like him a lot, and he is well liked by his colleagues." When Mr. Cheney was named Republican vice presidential candidate, however, Mr. Gore reflexively replied, "I will chose a running mate who shares my values, somebody who stands up for people, not the powerful, willing to take on big polluters, the big drug companies, the HMOs and Big Oil."
Indeed, Democrats, alluding to the fact that Mr. Cheney had been running the world's pre-eminent oil-services firm and that Mr. Bush years ago was in the oil business, have taken to calling the Bush-Cheney ticket the "first all-Big Oil ticket in American history." In fact, Mr. Gore is simply trying to shift the blame for rising gasoline prices by resorting to demagoguery. Last spring, after all, none other than Energy Secretary Bill Richardson candidly admitted, "It's obvious that the federal government was not prepared. We were caught napping. We got complacent." It seems Mr. Gore is so obsessed with attacking "Big Oil" for "price gouging" that he cannot understand that Mr. Cheney was in the business of selling to oil-production firms the technology to help them increase oil supplies, the effect of which would be to reduce oil prices from what they otherwise would be.
Democrats have also been castigating Mr. Cheney for casting a vote in the mid-1980s to reduce funding for the Head Start preschool program. In fact, despite a hugely successful public relations campaign, Head Start, according to numerous studies published at the time, has had very little long-term effect upon the rates of teen-age pregnancy, graduation, unemployment and crime. Here is the conclusion from a 1985 Department of Health and Human Services survey of studies of Head Start: "Children enrolled in Head Start enjoy significant immediate gains in cognitive test scores, socio-emotional test scores, and health status. In the long run, cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start."
The Democrats and their media friends have also been criticizing Mr. Cheney, who represented the state of Wyoming in the House, for the pro-gun and pro-life positions he consistently held throughout his congressional career (1979-1989) and thereafter. In fact, during the eight years Mr. Gore represented Tennessee in the House, his record on gun control and abortion was almost indistinguishable from Mr. Cheney's. The National Rifle Association congressional report card gave Mr. Gore "A" grades. And according to one comparative study, Reps. Cheney and Gore voted together 14 times on 15 major abortion votes, including supporting a 1984 amendment that declared "the term 'person' shall include unborn children from the moment of conception." Only after Mr. Gore began planning to run for national office, where he would have to satisfy the litmus tests of the liberal Democrats who vote in presidential primaries, did his views begin to change regarding guns and abortion. Typical of Mr. Gore, he changed for the most unprincipled reasons.
Mr. Cheney is also drawing fire for his opposition to the imposition of economic sanctions on South Africa during the 1980s and for a 1986 vote against a nonbinding resolution calling for the release of African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa. Regarding sanctions, Mr. Cheney's views were the same as those of Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who opposed sanctions because foreign firms provided the best jobs for black South Africans.
As for Mr. Mandela, it was well known that the ANC was little more than a front group for the South African Communist Party (SACP) during a period when the Soviet Union eagerly sought to expand its Evil Empire into southern Africa. Indeed, according to Bartholomew Hiapane, a former member of the ANC's National Executive Committee and the SACP Central Committee who testified before the U.S. Senate in November 1982, "[N]o major decision could be taken by the ANC without concurrence and approval of the Central Committee of the SACP." The next month an ANC assassin murdered Mr. Hiapane and his wife in their Soweto home.
Mr. Cheney also showed the good judgment to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He opposed it, he has explained, because a strict reading of it would have required women to be drafted for military service if Congress ever reinstated the draft. Democrats prevented him from offering an amendment exempting women from the draft. So he voted against the ERA, which was never adopted because an increasingly vigorous nationwide opposition prevented it from being ratified by the requisite number of states.
Mr. Cheney has good reason to be proud of the principled conservative record he compiled in Congress. Efforts by Mr. Gore and his allies to portray Mr. Cheney as some sort of Neanderthal, if the immediate polling data are accurate, have failed. Apparently voters are greeting Mr. Cheney's political return in 2000 the same way Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Coelho acknowledged his worthiness to take charge of the Pentagon in 1989. Not a single Democratic senator voted against him after the Senate Armed Services Committee conducted its nomination hearing, which, according to Congressional Quarterly, was "replete with tributes to Cheney's personal integrity and close-knit family life."

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