Pundit Central

Cheney’s Charge

Issue 1 is George W. Bush’s likely selection of Dick Cheney as his running mate.

Pundits work themselves into a frenzy over indications that former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will be Bush’s vice-presidential nominee. The panelists at Fox News Sunday, CNN’s Late Edition, and CNN’s Capital Gang act as if the choice is certain, while those at NBC’s Meet the Press and ABC’s This Week talk about it as a hypothetical. On MTP and FNS, Bush adviser Karen Hughes admits that Cheney’s change of voter registration from Texas to Wyoming–the Constitution prohibits a president and vice president to be from the same state–is a sign that he is being seriously considered. Most pundits, including Lisa Myers (MTP) and Al Hunt (CG), conclude that Bush now has to pick Cheney or risk a public relations fiasco.

The verdict on Cheney: He’s a safe choice. Pundits say he will lend “stature” and “gravitas” to Bush’s campaign. David Gregory (MTP) and Tucker Carlson (LE) note that Cheney’s foremost trait is loyalty. Andrea Mitchell (MTP) adds that Cheney is too old to have presidential ambitions himself, which might interfere with a future Jeb Bush presidency. Fred Barnes says that in choosing the experienced former House member, Bush is overcompensating for his father’s Dan Quayle mistake. But, adds Barnes, there’s nothing wrong with overcompensating in the direction of staid and competent.

What does the Cheney selection tell us about Bush? By bypassing the popular John McCain, say Al Hunt and Cokie Roberts (TW), Bush reveals that he is confident of victory. And by picking an uncharismatic veteran, say Mark Shields (CG) and Tucker Carlson, Bush reveals that he’s thinking about governing more than about campaigning.

Cheney’s demerits: 1) He had three mild heart attacks in the 1980s, although he has been in perfect health since. (“The only thing the vice president needs to be is alive,” wags CG’s Margaret Carlson. “If you’re going to be a bucket of warm spit at least be warm.”) 2) Cheney may connote gravitas, but he also evokes the old Bush administration. This, notes Juan Williams (FNS), indicates that Dubya is still daddy’s boy. Susan Page (LE) and Claire Shipman (MTP) add that this also makes it easier for Al Gore to identify Dubya with his father’s failed economic policies. 3) Cheney has ties to oil companies, which may hurt the campaign if gas prices become an issue.

VP rumors surrounding John McCain and former Sen. John Danforth also make the pundits’ radar screen but are dismissed. The McCain boomlet, note Mark Shields and Paul Gigot (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer), was started by House Republicans from California scared of losing their seats without McCain on the ticket. And Danforth, appearing on FNS, says he is “very very reluctant to get back in public life. … It is something I have not sought [and] would not want.”

Hunting for Hyperbole
Reflecting on Dick Cheney’s political experience, Al Hunt (CG) pronounces that “there has not been a [prospective] vice president in this century more qualified to be[come] president.” (Pundit Central presumes that Hunt means last century.) Is Hunt serious? More qualified than Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, and George H. W. Bush? On second thought, maybe Hunt really does mean this century.

Last Words

WOLF BLITZER (LE): Are we crazy that we’re paying so much attention to this running-mate issue?STEVE ROBERTS: No, we’re not. I mean, look, news expands to fill a vacuum, and we’re between the end of the primaries and the beginning of the fall campaign. But we’re still going to come here every Sunday to talk about this stuff. We’ve got to talk about something.