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Jewish World Review August 1, 2000/ 29 Tamuz, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Bush's choice of grown-up
Cheney is a stroke of genius --
I HADN'T REALIZED how much I've missed grown-ups until I saw Dick Cheney on television the other night. George Bush's vice-presidential pick is a sight for adult-deprived eyes.

Though Cheney isn't old enough to be my parent -- at 59 he's more like my older brother -- he reminds me of my parents' generation. That is, mature, no-nonsense, tempered by hard knocks and experience.

He isn't cute or funny or sexy, except to people like me for whom competence is tantamount to a candlelight dinner. He isn't starved for attention or hungry for the spotlight. You get the secure feeling that if a reporter caught him jogging and asked what kind of underwear he prefers, he would shake his head and keep running. Faster.

Imagine: Declining to answer a sophomoric question in the interest of simple dignity. If Cheney's presence in the presidential campaign distracts even momentarily from the adolescent preoccupations of the current administration, his contribution will be worthy of ovation.

Bush's decision to bring in a grown-up as his running mate was a stroke of genius. Who says Dubya's not smart?

Here in the hinterlands beyond the Beltway, Bush supporters have long maintained that Bush's strength wasn't so much the man himself as the people he can bring to the table.

People like Cheney, whose credentials overshadow the man who may become his hierarchical superior. People like Gen. Colin Powell, who seems a likely pick for secretary of state. People like Lynn Cheney, an intellectual whose own resume suggests something other than Tammy Wynette, though she's too smart ever to say so.

It's almost comical to watch as mandatory naysayers search for mud to sling.

Uh, let's see, 20 years ago while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives Cheney voted against Head Start! Yes, but, that was then, he says, during the peak years of our budget deficit when something had to go. In today's robust economy, Cheney says undefensively, he would do things differently.

Yes, but he voted against sanctions in South Africa during apartheid. A mistake given hindsight, but Cheney is on record opposing unilateral sanctions. One can comfortably argue that posture amid the leisurely pace of a Monday-morning post-mortem. For now, his voting record falls short of political indictment.

The rest of what has been gleaned from the streets falls on the silly side. In a recent man-on-the-street interview collage set against cartoonish background music, a CNN reporter asked random passersby what they thought of Cheney.

Some said, "Huh, who?" always reassuring and illuminating as we ponder the education deficit. A couple of folks older than 45 made salubrious remarks. The younger crowd adjusted their nose rings and said, "He's too old." Too old for what, MTV? Last and least, late-night funnymen suggested Cheney's too dull.

Too old for MTV and too dull for late-night TV?

Could a serious candidate hope for a better endorsement?

Finding fault with a proven leader for not being a clown is like criticizing Mozart for not knowing the latest hit song from Sister Hazel. Or is the problem that true statesmen make comedic ridicule too challenging for current talent?

The night after the Cheneys appeared on Larry King Live, King interviewed the nine women members of the U.S. Senate and asked what they thought of Cheney's candidacy. The women predictably split along party lines, but all were notably restrained in their remarks. Even Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., usually fiery and always direct, chose her words carefully.

One got the feeling that these women didn't want to offend the folks most likely to host the next inaugural party. Good instincts.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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