Back to the future

Would-be vice president Dick Cheney borrows a line from Al Gore as he incites Republican delegates to restore a Bush presidency.

By Anthony York
Published August 3, 2000 7:59PM (EDT)

In the spirit of unity which has been like anesthesia at this newsless gathering, the Republican Convention house band broke into a Muzak-y version of the Beatles song "Come Together" after Dick Cheney received his party's vice presidential nomination. An hour and a half later, Cheney took the stage and gave a speech ripping the Clinton administration and Al Gore.

Look out Democrats: Here come Dick Cheney, he come grooving up slowly, he got Joo-Joo eyeball, he one holy roller.

In his first major address to the nation as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Cheney accepted the party nod in what has quickly become his trademark staid and lumbering style. Even when he delivered his big applause lines bashing the Clinton-Gore administration, he sounded like he was giving a briefing from the Pentagon, not a rallying cry for new leadership in America.

When he said, "We're all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine," you had no choice but to believe him. He sounded weary.

It was a night when Republicans, for the first time, indulged in some good old-fashioned opposition-bashing -- an indulgence they have largely spared themselves up until now under strict orders from their new party leader.

But while Cheney's speech was heavy on the Gore and Clinton bashing, it capped another remarkable night when nobody uttered the words "abortion" or "Second Amendment" from the dais.

"We are all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine. But the wheel has turned, and it is time for them to go," Cheney said. That became the refrain of his speech -- "It's time for them to go" -- and it was lost on no one that he borrowed it from Al Gore, who used it against President Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, during his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 1992.

But the speech was more than enough to bring the audience to its feet, applauding and chanting, every time Cheney delivered a zinger at the Clinton-Gore administration, which was often. Wednesday gave rise to a chant and salute that will probably become a hallmark of the Bush-Cheney campaign, a little ditty where you throw your thumb over your shoulder and chant, "Time to go."

The new Republican nominee has been the focus of criticism by the Gore campaign since Bush tapped him for the ticket nine days ago. He took his revenge Wednesday in a speech filled with shots at both Gore and Clinton.

"When I look at the administration now in Washington, I am dismayed by opportunities squandered -- saddened by what might have been, but never was," he said. "These have been years of prosperity in our land, but little purpose in the White House."

But Cheney got one of his biggest laughs with a dig at the first couple. "As the man from Hope goes to, uh, New York, Mr. Gore will try to separate himself from his leader's shadow," Cheney said. "But somehow, we will never see one without thinking of the other ... They came in together, now let's see them off together."

While touching on Bush's themes of education, leadership and integrity, Cheney blasted the administration for failing to help children "oppressed by bureaucracy, monopoly and mediocrity." He also attacked Clinton and Gore for not reforming Social Security, and misusing America's military.

"Big changes are coming to Washington," Cheney promised.

They have undeniably already come to the Republican Convention.

Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

MORE FROM Anthony York

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Al Gore Bill Clinton Dick Cheney George W. Bush