The Cheney taint?

Robert Novak

7/31/2000 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak
If the game of politics were fiction it would be amusing to watch the Democrats scurrying around in a desperate dither over George W. Bush's decision to choose Dick Cheney as his running mate. When Bush first announced his choice, Democrats couldn't say enough nice things about Cheney. "He's a very nice guy, smart, honest." The closest they came to being negative was to say he was dull, and therefore wouldn't add much to the ticket. Oh yes, and there were the health problems, too. Once the initial shock wore off, it didn't take the war room long to devise a strategy to demonize the former Secretary of Defense. Of course, anyone with half a brain knows that the point of demonizing Cheney is to taint Bush. Imagine that. Tainting Bush by association with one of the most decent men to serve in the public sector in years. Their angle was creative, albeit transparent. The Cheney selection, ironically, would allow them to chip away at the one thing about Bush that has been in their craw from the beginning. He has been fraudulently passing himself off as compassionate. To liberals, you see, "compassionate conservatism" is an oxymoron. It is no less than a cosmic injustice for a conservative Republican to masquerade as a caring person -- to trespass on liberal terrain. Democrats thought they'd "outed" Bush by underscoring his appearance at Bob Jones University and his general campaign tactics in South Carolina, but their attempts at smear just didn't stick to Dubya. Cheney would become Bush's Achilles' heel regarding the compassion issue. Oh sure, Cheney appears to be a nice guy, but look at his voting record. The war room calculated that all they had to do to destroy Bush was to show that Cheney was a genuine conservative, because conservatism is manifestly evil. How's that for arrogance? So, in rigid lockstep, the Democrat shills have been popping up all over talk television decrying Cheney's mean-spirited, anachronistic record. They no longer even try to hide their contempt. One pleasant congresswoman, as if describing Satan incarnate, sneered, "Cheney's anti-choice, he's opposed to gun-control, he's anti-environment, he's against statistically measuring the census (boy, that's a zinger!), and he voted for Clarence Thomas." She forgot to mention that his wife, Lynne Cheney, is a fire-breathing reactionary in her own right. Others have since dutifully pointed that out. The war-room-talking-point-memo-breathing congresswoman added that Cheney also voted against the Department of Education (praise the Lord), and -- get this -- he voted against international family planning. Yes, she actually said that with a straight face. I concede that this final revelation is darn near enough to make me pack my bags and move to Chicago so I can register in Cook County and vote for Bush-Cheney a couple hundred times in November. The ingenuous war room thinks they've caught Bush in a double-trap. Through Cheney they've exposed Bush both as a true conservative and a liar, because he's been fibbing about his conservatism. They are wrong on both counts. Bush never denied being conservative. To him there is no contradiction between compassion and conservatism. Bush stands for precisely the same things Cheney has voted for. Bush has never pretended to be anything but pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Clarence Thomas, pro-real census counting and pro-decentralizing federal control over education. Some commentators have observed that Bush's selection speaks well for Bush in that it shows he's comfortable enough with himself to pick someone with greater credentials than his own. Yes, but it also shows that for all the Democrat hype about Bush being more of a politician than a statesman (a Clintonian politician) he is just the opposite. In picking Cheney, he's proven he's interested not in pizzazz but substance. What a refreshing attitude compared to the past eight years. The Democrats' frantic reaction to Cheney tells us even more about them. Through the Clinton years they have become comfortably smug about the superiority of their worldview -- so smug that they are now willing to declare all dissenters from it -- like Cheney -- evil. Well, the war room better be polishing up their nukes, because Bush's bold Cheney decision indicates that he means business and is ready to govern. If I were in the war room, I'd be nervous, too.