By Roger Simon
Monday, July 31
PHILADELPHIAThe selection of Dick Cheney as George W. Bush's running
mate was supposed to have a calming effect.
Cheney, who arrived in town on Sundaydays ahead of the top of the
ticketwas supposed to calm fears about Bush's lack of experience in
foreign affairs, in dealing with Congress, and in managing the White House.
Instead, Bush and his campaign have had to spend a great deal of time
calming fears about Cheney, even among some in their own party.
Contrary to what his voting record in Congress might seem to suggest, the
Bush forces assure us that Cheney did not want Nelson Mandela to rot in
jail for the rest of his life, does not think cop-killer bullets are a
swell idea, and does think that if you are going to buy a plastic handgun you
should not be an assassin.
A few weeks before Cheney's selection, I was in Austin talking to Bush's
top aides and they all said the same thing about what Bush wanted in a vice
"The governor does not care if he comes from a big state, because vice
presidents don't usually attract many votes even in their home state," one
aide said. "And he does not have to provide ideological balance. But this
will be seen as Gov. Bush's first presidential decision and all he has to
do is look presidential in making it."
But if this was Bush's first presidential decision and if we are supposed
to judge his presidential acumen by it, we have a right to ask how much
care he took in making it.
A good clue was provided by New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, who, in
a meeting with U.S. News staff members on Sunday, said, "When Gov. Bush
called me and told me it was Cheney, I mentioned his legislative record and
Bush said, 'You know, I really wasn't looking that closely at it.' "
He was picking a vice president, the personfrom Day 1!who is
ready to become president and the person who is supposed to make Bush look
presidential, but Bush "wasn't looking that closely" at how Cheney had voted?
What? The Rangers were on TV that day?
Not that Whitman thinks Cheney was a bad choice. Au contraire.
Whitman said the selection of Cheney was Bush's way of saying, "I know I
need some help" and Cheney "can get my agenda moving right away."
"I've known Cheney for 30 years," Whitman said. "I've always known him as
balanced. [In Congress] he could work both sides of the aisle. Do I share
all his beliefs? Of course not."
Whitman does say she is a big, big fan of Cheney, even though she also
says, "He's got to explain these votes"he still hasn't explained several
of the most controversial. She added, "I think we were all surprised
what came out on the voting record."
But why were we surprised? Wasn't Cheney vetted?
Well, that was the problem. Cheney was the vetter and couldn't vet himself,
and so Bush says he vetted the guy personally.
When I asked a top Republican operative and Bush supporter who really
vetted Cheney, he sighed and said, "Obviously, no one."
Sounds presidential to me.