Cheney's applause

Posted: Sep 04, 2004 12:00 AM

 NEW YORK -- Republican convention planners, fearing that Dick Cheney would not be interrupted enough times on Wednesday night to stretch out his relatively brief prepared remarks, underestimated the vice president's popularity with the party faithful.

 Because Cheney's uninterrupted text ran only 16 minutes, his staff hoped for at least 25 applause interruptions to stretch out the length of his appearance. In fact, the Madison Square Garden audience applauded, cheered or hooted to stop him 59 times, which extended his performance to 32 minutes.

 A footnote: In a convention bereft of hard news, the rumor of the week swept Manhattan Tuesday when well-placed Republicans repeated a report that Cheney would be replaced as vice president at the last moment by Sen. John McCain. Such a shift would not have sat well with the assembled delegates, but the rumor was totally baseless.


 The poorly received convention speech of the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, Tuesday night was blamed by insiders on the influence and bad judgment of Andrea Ball, chief of staff to Laura Bush.

 President Bush's staffers regard Ball and her subordinates as the weak link in the White House. They have considered the first lady's operation as a disaster waiting to happen, and it happened when Ball cleared the twins' inappropriate speech.

 Bush insiders say that this is one area where even Karl Rove, the president's powerful adviser, fears to tread. They contend Rove could not have reversed Andy Ball's judgment on what the twins said.


 Conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly responded to a conciliatory gesture by Sen. Bill Frist by gently suggesting that he should be as tough in his day job as Senate majority leader as he was in chairing the platform committee at the Republican National Convention.

 Schlafly had grumbled that Frist acted like an old-fashioned Soviet Communist in blocking her efforts to modify the immigration and stem-cell research planks. After the platform was wrapped up, Frist approached her to make some friendly remarks. Schlafly responded, with a smile: "I have only one question. Why can't you run the Senate this way?" Frist has been criticized for not being more effective as majority leader.

 A footnote: Frist's management of the platform was regarded in Republican circles as the launch of his campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination. While he faithfully executed the White House's wishes, he did not get high marks from many Platform Committee members.


 In two of the few platform demands agreed to by the White House, the names of Democratic icons Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson were eliminated from the final version of the Republican manifesto.

 The early platform draft drew criticism for praising the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as "the most far-reaching reform of American business practices since Franklin Roosevelt." This was changed to "since the 1940s."

 What really enraged conservatives was the education plank taking credit for the "highest percentage gain (in education spending) since Lyndon Johnson." This was changed to "since the 1960s."


 George W. Bush's political managers were relieved Tuesday when former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez easily defeated former Rep. Bill McCollum for the Senate Republican nomination in Florida.

 The fear in the Bush camp was that the defeat of Martinez, who emigrated from Cuba as a small boy, would have depressed the Cuban-American vote that is needed by George W. Bush to win Florida's essential electoral votes. The White House recruited Martinez to run against McCollum, who lost a 2000 Senate bid.

 A footnote: Some McCollum backers, still angry over Martinez's tough primary campaign, are not reconciled to his nomination. That confirms Democrat Betty Castor, the former state education commissioner, as the early favorite to retain the Senate seat now held by retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham.