[This article was written by Mickey Kaus and Ruth Shalit. It also appears in Salon.]
For months we worked closely together to review the qualifications of many impressive candidates. As we worked to evaluate the strength of others, I saw firsthand Dick Cheney’s outstanding judgment. I benefited from his keen insight. I was impressed by the tough and thorough way he addressed his mission. … When Secretary Cheney visited me and Laura at our ranch in Crawford, Texas over the last Fourth of July weekend, we reviewed many candidates, all of whom are very impressive. But I continued to believe the best candidate might be sitting next to me.–Gov. George W. Bush, July 25, 2000
July 4, 2000
BUSH: Hey, terrific news. Powell’s guys are sending out feelers.
CHENEY: That’s great! He’d sew it up for us. His approval ratings are through the roof.
BUSH: So, what do we do? Should I call him? Are we done?
CHENEY: Almost. There is one thing.
CHENEY: Well, I’m sure you remember, back in your father’s term, that incident at the dinner for the Japanese prime minister.
BUSH (chuckling): Oh, you mean El Puko! The champion hurler! … Hey, maybe my dad just knew what was going to happen with the Japanese economy.
CHENEY: Well, Governor, I’m afraid there’s more to the story. I was over at our super-secret spy network, Echelon, and I came across this.
(Hands him photographs.)
Governor, I’m sure you’ll be as shocked and disappointed as I was. It’s a little grainy, but I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.
BUSH: What’s this? It looks like the general is seasoning my father’s chicken.
CHENEY: That’s what your father thought. But as you can see from this close-up, the general is actually holding a bottle of–
BUSH (interrupting): Ipecac!
CHENEY: I’m afraid so, sir.
BUSH (angry): He told Dad it was his special Caribbean jerk chicken recipe. (turning contemplative) I always did feel ill after his barbeques. … Wait a minute–I just had a thought. Gulf War Syndrome. … Oh, never mind. Forget Powell. He’s out. Who else is there?
CHENEY: Well, there’s Kasich, sir.
BUSH: Love him. Love that guy.
CHENEY: Knows a ton about the budget.
BUSH: Lots of vitality. Lots of vim and vigor.
CHENEY: Ohio’s a toss-up state.
BUSH: Is there anything wrong with him? Aside from the haircut, I mean.
CHENEY: Well, there is one thing. During legislative mark-up sessions, he likes to watch cartoons.
BUSH: Great! I like cartoons, too.
CHENEY (taken aback): There’s also a problem with his musical taste.
BUSH: I know, I know, the whole Grateful Dead thing. Tried to climb on stage. I guess that’s OK. Might bring up the whole drug issue again. But we can handle it.
CHENEY: No, sir, that’s not it.
BUSH: What is it then?
CHENEY: He doesn’t like the Oak Ridge Boys.
CHENEY: Chuck Hagel.
BUSH: Good man. Got that war record. Brings in the McCain vote.
CHENEY: Sir. Do you know what “Hagel” means in Chinese?
(Cheney leans over and whispers something into Bush’s ear.)
BUSH (listening): Mmm hmm. Mmm hmmm. … The Chinese have a word for that too, huh?
CHENEY: Yes, sir. You’d be buying yourself four years of superpower confrontation. Take it from me. I know their leaders.
BUSH (growing despondent): Well, damn. Who else is there? Liddy Dole.
CHENEY: Now you’re talking, Governor. She’d bring real energy to the campaign.
BUSH (getting excited): She’d get the girls in. Gore won’t know what to do. If he picks Feinstein he’ll look like a copycat.
CHENEY: Yes, sir.
BUSH: Great, Dick, this is great. But, let’s think about this for a minute. Elizabeth Dole. Any skeletons in the closet? Nannies? Maids? Interns?
CHENEY: Nope. Clean as a whistle.
BUSH: Looks like we got ourselves a running mate!
CHENEY: I said there were no skeletons. But, sir–remember how with McCain, you were concerned about policy differences? I think you might be going down that same road with Mrs. Dole.
BUSH (puzzled): Really? I thought she had no ideas at all.
CHENEY: Not exactly, sir. She actually has a few.
BUSH: Well, that could be trouble. (pause) What are they? Any problem areas?
CHENEY: Governor, you’ll recall that as part of our screening process, I took it upon myself to conduct one-on-one interviews with the most serious candidates.
BUSH: Yeah, yeah.
CHENEY: During our interview, Mrs. Dole referred to “compassionate conservatism” as “a crock of sh-t.”
BUSH: (pause) That smarts. (longer pause) She probably got that from Bob.
CHENEY: I’m sorry, sir.
BUSH (brightening): But hey, I suppose we can paper that over. A couple days with Marvin Olasky should soften her up. If that’s all there is, I think we can deal with it.
CHENEY (a bit stunned): Um … um … but there’s one more thing.
CHENEY: It’s about Hispanics, sir.
BUSH: Oh. Mis amigos de la sur! Welcome! Bienveni-…
CHENEY (cutting him off): She hates them, sir.
BUSH: What’s that?
CHENEY: She hates Hispanics, sir. Except that’s not what she calls them.
BUSH: Jesus, what does she call them?
CHENEY (grimly): Let’s just say certain Mexican dishes are involved.
BUSH (stunned): Wow. That won’t do. That definitely cuts it for her (pause). I never realized our pool of candidates was so thin.
CHENEY: Well, we’re taking a tough, thorough look at them, sir.
BUSH: There was one more, wasn’t there? Tom Ridge.
CHENEY: Great guy. Our polls show we would carry Pennsylvania.
BUSH: The abortion thing. That’ll blow over. My pro-life friends–where’re they gonna go?
CHENEY: Not to Buchanan, not this time.
BUSH (happily): So it’s Ridge, then.
CHENEY: There’s just one thing.
CHENEY: I’m afraid it’s a bit awkward.
BUSH: Go on, go on.
BUSH: You’re kidding. (pause) Well, it happens to all of us now and then, I guess.
CHENEY: I’m not talking just a little here. You can’t see it on TV. He looks great and all. But it’s hell to be around, I tell you.
(A long pause, while this sinks in, and Bush considers his options.)
BUSH: I did tell the American people my running mate would have to be someone I’m comfortable with.
(He glances at Cheney.)
BUSH: Actually, I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now.
CHENEY: Mi también, amigo.
[Ruth Shalit is an account planner at Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and writes an advertising column for Salon.]