Jewish World Review August 3, 2000 /2 Menachem-Av 5760
Cheney is a policy heavyweight and a man of sober probity, but as Democrats have gleefully pointed out, his House voting record was far to the right of center.
Having rigidly opposed the Department of Education, sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, abortion even in cases of rape, increased funding for Head Start and all forms of gun control, Cheney offered Democrats rich opportunities for attacks on Bush.
And the Democrats took full advantage, staging events and opening up a slick Web site to expose and attack Cheney's 1980s opposition to various health programs, family leave legislation, labor and civil rights laws.
"He's a nice, charming guy," one Gore adviser said of Cheney. "But his record makes stark and clear the differences between Bush and us on the issues."
"The ideology that Cheney represents isn't that of the 'different kind of Republican' that Bush has been projecting, but the kind most of the country finds too far to the right."
The Gore adviser added,"It's been our belief from the beginning that Bush's compassionate conservatism is all facade and window dressing. Cheney reinforces the point."
Republicans did not seem prepared for the Democratic onslaught. As Jeffrey Birnbaum of Fortune magazine observed on Fox News Channel, "Cheney was in charge of vetting Bush's other vice presidential possibilities. Someone should have vetted him."
Cheney justified most of his votes by saying the country faced budget deficits at the time. He did not recant or even declare himself a convert to "compassionate conservatism."
The Bush campaign didn't seem fazed by Democratic attacks on Cheney, either, declaring them nothing more than examples of customary negativism on the part of Vice President Al Gore's campaign.
Judging by the Gallup poll taken after Cheney's appointment, Republicans were right not to worry. Bush's lead over Gore among likely voters jumped to 11 points.
Still, a new Pew Research Center poll indicates that, despite help from the media, Bush has yet to establish in the public's mind that he is a "different kind of Republican."
A joint study by Pew, the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists shows that Bush has received consistently more favorable coverage than Gore has, with 40 percent of stories reinforcing the Bush themes of bipartisanship, compassion, reform and "difference."
Yet, according to Pew, only 21 percent of voters think Bush's views are different from those of traditional GOP leaders, while 62 percent think they are the same.
Only 28 percent think he has tailored his appeal to reach out to nontraditional GOP voters. Rather, the dominant impression of Bush -- held by 54 percent of voters -- is that he has relied on his family connections to get ahead.
Cheney, having been Bush's father's defense secretary and the beneficiary of the former president's lobbying, presumably will only reinforce the impression that Bush is primarily his father's heir.
Perhaps significantly, in view of the Pew findings, the Bush-led Republican Party is going out of its way to run a conclave in Philadelphia, advertised as "not your father's convention."
The themes will be upbeat, not negative. Both the GOP platform and the speaker's platform in the convention hall have "had their edges rounded," according to Bush aides.
While retaining traditional GOP language on abortion, the policy platform goes out of its way to emphasize what Republicans will do for education and women's health. And the convention hall platform has been reduced to look like a living room on television.
Speakers will emphasize ethnic diversity, optimism and bipartisanship. There will be speeches and singing in Spanish. Jan Bullock, widow of former Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock (D), is expected to deliver an emotional recounting of Bush and her husband's bond across party lines.
The convention theme, "Renewing America's Purpose. Together," sounds vague and gauzy, but Bush aides claim that by Thursday night, Americans will have a sense that Bush means to build a country with ends beyond economic well-being, including quality education and retirement security.
So, GOP atmospherics will be centrist, upbeat and forward-looking. Supposedly, there will be limited disparagement of Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Gore. Bush should get a bounce and may lead Gore by 15 to 20 points next week.
But elections are decided on policy as well as mood. So when Bush makes his acceptance speech on Thursday, he needs to say something about health policy, taxes and Social Security that will trump Democratic offerings and survive Democratic
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