Maggie Gallagher
The news that Dick Cheney won the veepstakes sent a little chill down my spine. It's not that there is anything at all wrong with the former secretary of defense. I'm not worried that he makes Bush look boyish, beholden or lacking in gravitas, as the Democrats charge. Nor is the choice of Cheney, a solid if mild-mannered conservative, evidence that the Bush team has turned its back on Reaganism, as some right-wing commentators fear. And I certainly do not mourn Bush's failure to tap McCain, a man who, for all his virtues, is nowise anybody's idea of a backup singer in someone else's band.

No, what's worrisome is that Cheney for Veep feels more like the ultimate safe choice, an incumbent's choice, if you will, rather than a fighting insurgent's. Cheney won't add to Bush's appeal in any state or constituency. In picking Cheney, Bush was clearly looking beyond the campaign itself, to get a man of substance who'd make both an ideal vice president -- loyal, discreet, trustworthy, a guy who can get things done and fade into the background -- and a perfectly competent potential president.

Nobody's going to stay up nights fretting about the possibility that Dick Cheney's hands might one day be on The Button. "Do no harm" rather than "Grab the gold" was the modus operandi. And that worries me because candidates who try to coast on their leads often end up losing them.

Bush's highly publicized extensive search for a veep had this important side benefit: It considerably raised the national profile of also-ran Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, in whom social conservatives may have found a new standard-bearer. I heard him in person for the first time a few weeks ago at the Smart Marriages conference in Denver sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples' Education ( On stage with his telegenic wife, Cathy, he was fabulous: articulate, personable, self-effacing, funny, clear-headed and easy-going. The Frank Keating secret to a lasting marriage? "Compromise and do as you're told," he deadpanned.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.