- The Washington Times - Friday, July 16, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney never had a better chance to announce he would resign his post to make way for a popular senator from Arizona.

Standing side by side with Sen. John McCain at a campaign rally yesterday in Lansing, Mich., the vice president praised his fellow Republican, once courted by Sen. John Kerry as a potential running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Moment before, Mr. McCain had complimented Mr. Cheney as “not just another pretty face” — a sly reference to Mr. Kerry’s No. 2 pick, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

But although the two shared a warm hug and traded laudatory words, Mr. Cheney did not hand over his keys to the White House to Mr. McCain.

“Over the years, my admiration for John has grown, for his personal courage, for his integrity, for his lifetime of service to America,” Mr. Cheney said. “John is one of the great Americans of our generation and I’m delighted he’s my friend.”

The joint appearance at a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser should put to rest rumors that Mr. Cheney, 63, would drop off the ticket weeks before the election, clearing the way for President Bush to tap a less-conservative running mate who appeals to Democrats and independents. That appeared to suit Mr. McCain just fine — he was expansive in his praise for Mr. Cheney while introducing him.

“As vice president, he is in effect deputy commander-in-chief in the great test of our generation. He stands shoulder to shoulder with the president in this long, tough fight to vanquish international terrorism … and make it unmistakably clear to all the bin Ladens of the world what a fatal mistake it is to attack the United States of America,” Mr. McCain said to thunderous applause.

He also called Mr. Cheney “indispensable, very debonair” and, eliciting much laughter, “not just another pretty face.”

The senator went on to defend the president’s decision to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a decision for which he tapped “the experience and wisdom of his vice president.”

Mr. McCain, a highly respected authority on military and foreign affairs in part because of his five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said the pair made the right decision even if Saddam did not wield weapons of mass destruction.

“Whether Saddam then possessed the terrible weapons that every intelligence service on earth believed he possessed, he had used them before and was, I have no doubt, firmly determined to acquire them again, for what terrible purpose we can only anticipate with dread,” Mr. McCain said. “That was a risk George Bush and Dick Cheney knew we just couldn’t afford in this new violent age of terrorism.”

Rumors swirled around Washington in recent days that Mr. Cheney would be dropped to make room for Mr. McCain, a Republican rival who lost to Mr. Bush in the 2000 primaries but impressed voters with his “straight talk.”

The vice president, who has had several heart attacks and already announced he will not run for president in 2008, was rumored to be leaving the ticket for “health reasons,” reported the New York Times, which cited unnamed “prominent Democrats” as sources.

Former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a Republican, last week said Mr. Bush should replace Mr. Cheney with Mr. McCain or Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who intends to step down should the president win re-election.

Mr. Cheney repeatedly has said he does not plan to step aside. In an interview with C-SPAN to be broadcast tomorrow, the vice president again says that while he would drop out “if I thought that were appropriate,” the president has asked him to stay on.

“The way I got here in the first place was that he persuaded me that I was the man he wanted in the post, not just as a candidate, but as somebody to be part of the governing team. He’s been very clear he doesn’t want to break up the team,” Mr. Cheney said.

In his speech to supporters in Michigan, a battleground state, the vice president said he and the president stand by the decision to go to war in Iraq.

“These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next, and that brings to mind our opponents in this campaign,” Mr. Cheney said. “Senator Kerry’s position on big issues often depends on when you ask him. When Congress voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, Senator Kerry voted yes. This year, when it served his purpose, he described himself as an opponent of the war.”

The Bush campaign yesterday sent out data from the Gallup News Service showing “support to keep Vice President Cheney has increased over the past year.”

Nearly 60 percent of Americans said Mr. Cheney should remain on the ticket, and exactly half of independents agreed, up from 46 percent a year ago.

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