Why George W. chose Cheney

By Nicholas Sanchez and Leo K. O'Drudy, III
web posted July 31, 2000

If there is one characteristic of George W. Bush's campaign, it is that it is cautious. Since announcing his bid for the presidency, Governor Bush has been careful not to tug the ideological rope too far to the right or too far to the left.

The exception to this rule came after a brief spell of McCain-mania. After losing the New Hampshire primary, Bush made the decision to embrace the religious and cultural conservatives, opting to speak at Bob Jones University as other presidential candidates like Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, and Pat Buchanan had done before him. Of course, after the hubbub of the Bush-McCain showdown died down, Bush switched the autopilot back on and settled back into his cautious course.

It should come as no surprise then that Bush chose Dick Cheney as his Vice Presidential running mate. Cheney is the most cautious—dare we say "prudent"—choice Bush could have made.

First of all, there is no danger of Cheney running with his own agenda. It is well documented that for the Bush family, loyalty is a must. And during his service as Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney was completely and totally loyal to former President George (Herbert Walker) Bush. More than one commentator has noted that during the Gulf War, Cheney rarely if ever referred to "I" in his briefings with the press. He was always quick to say "The President has said" or "The President has decided" and so on.

Compare this to Jack Kemp who, in 1996, seemed to be running a separate campaign apart from Bob Dole's efforts. Or imagine what Vice Presidential candidate John McCain would have been like. Half the time he would have beat up on the Democrats, the other half of the time he would have beat up on the top of his ticket. No such problem exists with Cheney who is a proven Bush loyalist.

Second, Cheney was also a cautious or safe pick in that his views are within the mainstream of the Republican Party, and especially with conservative activists within the Party. He has a 100% pro-life voting record according to National Right to Life. In fact, his record on that issue is much stronger than most people may realize. In 1983 and 1985 he voted against the use of federal funds for abortions. In 1985 he also voted against federal aid for so-called "Family Planning Assistance." And in 1988, he voted against allowing federal funds to be used for abortions for rape, incest, or "life of the mother."
Moreover, conservative activists—the core of the Republican Party—will be pleased to know that Mr. Cheney also takes the 2nd Amendment very seriously. Unlike many of his GOP colleagues, he has cast some very difficult votes in favor of the right to bear arms.

Third, from his parochial perspective, Bush was wise to select Cheney because he is a non-threatening figure to the future of the Bush Dynasty. Don't forget, there is another Governor Bush out there—Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. Who is to say that Jeb doesn't have presidential aspirations as well?

Cheney is 59, looks a few years older than that, and is well-known for having suffered from three mild heart attacks. While he is from central casting for a VP pick, a run for the top job four or eight years from now does not seem all too likely. (At least not yet.)

And finally, Cheney is also a non-threatening figure at large. His calm, low-key, non-abrasive style seems tailor-made to soothe skittish soccer moms and other moderates who have been taught by the liberal media to view old-fashioned rockem-sockem attack politics as "mean-spirited" – if practiced by conservatives.

Since Bush has decided to forgo the traditional "attack night" on Tuesday of his convention, it makes sense for him to pick a running mate who will abandon the "attack dog" tradition of Nixon, Agnew, Dole, and Quayle. These running mates generally allowed the top of the ticket to be lofty and presidential, while they gleefully tossed out red meat rhetoric for their loyalist supporters and pounded away at the opposition to raise doubts among undecided voters. Austin has decided that America has changed, and the "safe" course will be for the faithful base to have content itself with Cheney's solid record, and for the mushy middle to be apparently be bored, er, soothed into the arms of the GOP.

Come November, we'll see if this strategy works. It just might.

Nicholas Sanchez is host of the Free Congress radio program "New Nation." Leo O'Drudy III is the Free Congress Foundation's Direct Mail Coordinator.

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