Should Bush keep Cheney?

By WND Staff

In this relative lull between the Democratic and Republican conventions, the rumor mills are abuzz with speculation that President Bush may drop Dick Cheney as his running mate in favor of someone supposedly better equipped to take on the Democrats’ glamour boy, John Edwards.

Cheney (so the argument goes) has been thoroughly demonized by the liberal media as Halliburton’s man in the higher ranks of the Bush administration as a result of his former experience as that company’s CEO. Originally, he was thought to lend a needed gravitas to the Republican ticket, having served, in previous administrations, as secretary of Defense and presidential chief of staff.

But in the past three and a half years, as Cheney has served Bush silently and self-effacingly, this reputation for expertise has subtly been transmuted into the image of a devious Rasputin, invisibly manipulating the levers of government in the interests of his well-known conservatism, his supposedly rabid Middle Eastern policies, and (of course) Halliburton.

In addition, even some Republicans have wondered whether Cheney, whose style and manner are understated to a fault, is up to debating the glib and glossy Edwards, as he will have to do at least once on national television during the campaign.

Thus far, Bush has certainly seemed rock-solid in his support of his vice president. When asked to compare him to Edwards, the president replied trenchantly, “Cheney could be president” – thereby moving the debate right back to where it belongs: over the comparative qualifications of Cheney and Edwards.

But Bush also badly wants to win re-election, and polls have suggested there may be some disadvantages in retaining Cheney, in view of the job the liberal media have done on him.

I will confess that I have been astonished at how successfully the liberals have managed to tarnish the public image of Dick Cheney. In 60 years of watching American politics, I cannot recall a public figure whose abilities, experience, judgment and modesty have impressed me more. He has held more major public offices than most politicians dream of, and yet no breath of scandal has ever touched him. His recent salty response to an offensive remark by Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy merely confirmed his common humanity to doubters who were beginning to wonder if his behavior was too good to be true.

On reflection, it has probably been Cheney’s determination to stay out of the limelight, and to give advice to Bush confidentially, when the president requests it (as he frequently does), that has given his critics their opening. What is he saying to Bush in private? What policies is he pushing, behind the closed doors of the Oval Office? His very silence has left his enemies free to imagine – and proclaim – the worst.

But Bush put his finger on the key point: Dick Cheney is superbly qualified to serve as president, if some tragedy makes that necessary. As if to stress that point, he is running, by sheer luck, against a man whom the New York Times asserts “has less governmental experience than any other major vice presidential candidate in at least 20 years.” John Edwards unquestionably has looks and charm to burn, but what effect would these have on North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, or the mullahs of Iran?

One hopes the American people will reflect on that question before casting their votes this November. The United States is deep in a war against militant Islam, being waged by our enemies with terrorist tactics previously unknown to modern warfare. Dick Cheney may have his defects, but President Bush – and America – are fortunate he is vice president. Such men of solid experience and wisdom are far too rare to throw away.