Inside Report: Cheney and McCain

Posted: Nov 03, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- While Sen. John McCain was getting battered by his former Republican allies in the House, he engaged in a public love-fest with erstwhile adversary Dick Cheney last week. Vice President Cheney turned up at McCain's fund-raiser for the International Republican Institute. The senator told the audience that if he had defeated George W. Bush for the presidential nomination, he would have asked Cheney to be his running mate. The vice president replied that if asked by McCain, he would have accepted. McCain antagonized his House friends with sarcastic remarks on David Letterman's "Late Show" that the decision by House leaders to suspend activities because of the anthrax scare was "a profile in courage." Even Rep. Peter King, a McCain stalwart in New York last year against the Bush tide, was outraged. SAVING THE STIMULUS National Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsey may have saved the economic stimulus bill when he told President Bush that abandoning the measure could devastate the staggering economy. Prominent Republican lobbyists in Washington had been trying to shelve the measure because its final version will bear little resemblance to what Bush proposed. Thanks to the Democratic-controlled Senate, these GOP operatives warned, the bill reaching the president's desk will be high on spending and low on tax cuts. Lindsey responded that the stimulus bill's impact has already been factored into equity markets. For the president to junk it, he said, would force a precipitous drop in stock prices. The warning was particularly resonant since Lindsey has not previously geared his advice to the Dow-Jones average. SAVING DASCHLE'S MAJORITY Sen. Tom Daschle is not up for re-election next year in South Dakota, but he already is at the center of that state's 2002 Senate race on grounds that it could determine whether Daschle will continue as majority leader or revert to minority leader. When President Bush talked Rep. John Thune into running for the Senate instead of governor of South Dakota, first-term Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson became a prime Republican target for next year. Early polls show Thune ahead of Johnson. The Democratic campaign theme: with Democrats now controlling the Senate by a single seat, Thune's victory could cost South Dakota the cherished majority leadership. GORED BY SEPT. 11 The transformed political climate created by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks undermined Al Gore's long-planned return to overt political activity. Gore's comeback speech at the Democratic dinner in Des Moines Sept. 29 was virtually ignored by the national news media, who were preoccupied with covering the terrorist crisis. The 2000 presidential nominee's low standing inside the Democratic establishment continues to fall. A footnote: Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who had been riding high in the early 2004 presidential sweepstakes, is now viewed inside the party as too inexperienced considering the changed climate. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle gets high praise as the nation's principal Democratic spokesman, while the performances of Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut also are well received. CONGRESSIONAL FARM REVOLT Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is second only to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in unpopularity among Republicans in Congress, though her critics are concentrated in the farm bloc. Republican and Democratic House members representing rural districts in the Midwest and South complain that Veneman, a Californian, is more interested in international trade than the condition of farmers. Rep. Larry Combest of Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has led farm bloc Republicans in warning that they may oppose President Bush's trade bill because he has not delivered on farm legislation. While O'Neill spent the past quarter-century in the private sector before taking the Treasury post, Veneman is an experienced government official. She was deputy secretary of Agriculture in the first Bush administration and then served as California secretary of agriculture under Gov. Pete Wilson.