Dick is the pick

Reports indicate that former Secretary of Defense Cheney will be Bush's running mate.


The wait is over. The Washington Post reports that George W. Bush will tap Dick Cheney, his father’s former secretary of defense, as his running mate. Though Cheney headed up the veep search team for Bush, apparently he found neither Gov. Tom Ridge, nor Sen. John McCain, nor a list of other GOP governors and senators more qualified than himself. The official announcement is expected Tuesday, but Cheney has been preparing for the win. He has already changed his voting registration from Texas to Wyoming to avoid the electoral college complications of a two-Texan ticket, and has undergone an extensive physical examination to show that he is healthy enough for the job.

In addition to his foreign policy and legislative experience, Cheney brings a history of loyal service to Bush men, which the Texas governor indicated was among his top criteria.

Choosing a million-dollar man
Though a step higher in prestige, the vice presidency could represent a real cut in income for Cheney, according to Reuters. As CEO of Halliburton Co., an oil field service company, Cheney pocketed $1.92 million in salary and stock options last year, more than 10 times the pay he could expect as vice president. Though Cheney has been in private life since the last Bush administration ended, his company isn’t politically neutral. According to the Federal Election Commission, Halliburton has donated $129,000 in soft money to Republicans.

Voters give Dick a thumbs up
So far, so good for the vice presidential wannabe in the public opinion arena. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that 45 percent of Americans feel that Cheney is a “pretty good” choice for Bush’s running mate, 10 percent believe the choice is “excellent” and 26 percent think Bush’s decision is “fair.” While this is good news for the GOP, the Texas governor shouldn’t expect Cheney to bring a surge of his own to the ticket. Approximately 40 percent of voters said that they didn’t know enough about him to have a real opinion, and more than 70 percent said that the addition of Cheney would have no effect on their vote.

Cheney run inspires snores
Bush’s vice presidential pick may be OK with voters, but Joel Achenbach, writing for the Washington Post, finds that Cheney falls a little short of the thrilling veep choice the Bush campaign had promised. “Dick Cheney is a name that signifies ‘team player.’ It signifies ‘Washington insider,” Achenbach says. “It signifies ‘generic middle-aged white man.’” The only way to find a Cheney choice interesting, Achenbach suggests, is to probe the Bush monarchy angle. “The really tantalizing issue raised by the Cheney news is whether George W. Bush’s candidacy is nothing but an attempt to restore his father’s administration to power,” he writes.

The joke’s on Dick
Reporters may find Cheney dull, but late-night comedians are already sharpening their barbs in his honor. The Los Angeles Times reports that Jay Leno found endless amusement in Cheney’s medical history, which includes a series of mild heart attacks and quadruple-bypass surgery in 1988. “In the time it took me to walk out here, Dick Cheney had five more heart attacks,” Leno said in his opening monologue Monday night. “I guess instead of Air Force Two, he’ll travel around in Ambulance Two. They’ll just follow him around with an oxygen tank.”

David Letterman took glancing shots at Cheney’s heart, but focused more on his charisma-challenged personality. “Looks like now he’s really going to jump-start that George W. Bush presidential campaign; he’s shifted into overdrive … looks like he’s going to select Dick Cheney as his running mate,” Letterman said. “So now we’ll get some of that Dick Cheney mania.”

Too safe for comfort?
To conservatives who were wary of some of Bush’s veep flirtations, the choice of Cheney should be a relief. He has served two Republican administrations faithfully, working for both Gerald Ford and George I. Cheney is pro-business, pro-life and pro-defense, in addition to being competent, intelligent and loyal. So why does conservative magazine National Review find fault with him? Editor Richard Lowry writes that while Cheney is perfect for “matters of process” and the day-to-day business of the White House, he may not be much help to Bush in getting there. “Cheney is dull, and an uninspired campaigner,” Lowry writes. “In fact, it is difficult to imagine him campaigning at all.” Arguing that Cheney is no reformer (with results or otherwise), and certainly not a new kind of Republican, Lowry insists that he won’t help Bush with opening up the GOP tent. In short, he believes Bush may have been better off with someone with a little less loyalty and a little more kick.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 24).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News July 13-16).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 40 (Fox News July 12-13).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 41 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 24).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 4 (CBS News July 14-16).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 3 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek June 29-30).

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  • Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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