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Jewish World Review July 31, 2000 /28 Tamuz, 5760

Tony Snow

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Demonstrably dull Dick has Dems in a dither -- DEMOCRATS are in a dither about the demonstrably dull Dick Cheney. The Rev. Jesse Jackson summarized the case against George W. Bush's running mate this way: "Jesus warned us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. Dick Cheney voted against Head Start. He voted against equal rights for women. He voted against sanctions against South Africa. He voted not once but six times against freeing (Nelson) Mandela from jail."

Other members of Al Gore's posse have complained that Cheney opposed creating a Department of Education, has ties to Big Oil, dislikes abortion and got good ratings from the National Rifle Association.

These charges tell us more about the accusers than the accused. For the chief claim is that Cheney doesn't measure progress in terms of programs that don't work.

The Democratic Party, under the tutelage of Bill Clinton, has embraced the superstition that legislative titles possess talismanic power. If you want to secure equal rights for women, you pass something called the Equal Rights Amendment. If you want to boost poor children, you create a program called Head Start. If you wish to banish gun violence, you push gun control. Of course, any huckster can slap a misleading label on a product, and that's precisely what has happened in America for the past generation.

Consider the Gore Corps' cavils.

Head Start: The federal government has spent more than $30 billion on Head Start only to discover the program produces no lasting benefits for poor children. None. This may explain why the administration rejected a 1997 General Accounting Office request to determine whether the program produced benefits commensurate with costs.

Equal Rights: Cheney did not oppose equal rights for women. He opposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. That proposal demanded equality between the sexes, whatever that means. It was intended to discourage using seniority and merit to determine pay. As it turned out, women prospered without the ERA's help. An expanding economy proved more effective than a gauzy measure guaranteed only to incite tortious mayhem.

Mandela: Cheney opposed trade sanctions against South Africa because sanctions don't work. They haven't brought Saddam to his knees, and Castro has survived them for 40 years. Cheney rejected an empty gesture and never petitioned to keep Mandela in chains.

Big Oil: Cheney served as chairman of Haliburton, which is not an "oil company" but an engineering and construction firm. Al Gore, in contrast, owes the bulk of his fortune to Occidental Petroleum.

As for the Department of Education, guns and abortion, Cheney's positions would have made him a good Democrat. Democrats Dick Gephardt, John Conyers, David Obey and Henry Waxman all voted against creating the Department of Education.
And Cheney's ratings from the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee were virtually identical to Al Gore's. In the six years they served together in the House, Cheney got straight As from the NRA. Gore's lowest grade was an A-. Cheney voted 100 percent of the time with the right-to-life group; Gore supported the cause in 15 of 16 votes.

This gets us to the heart of the matter. Jackson spoke what he knew to be nonsense out of a very reasonable fear. For Democrats, Cheney is a very dangerous man -- the most dangerous sort of man in this Age of Barm. He presents himself as a whole person, unapologetic about his passions or his past, comfortable with speaking clearly about his convictions.

He doesn't view his opponents as agents of Satan -- unlike Jackson, who managed to transform the Son of Man into a political hack. He doesn't talk about civility and tolerance, he practices both. He doesn't view the federal government as an acceptable surrogate for G-d -- both in the promulgation of values and the production of miracles. He knows what we all know -- that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. You don't hand your fate and fortune to that lummox, Uncle Sam.

The truly interesting question about voting records is not why Cheney voted as he did, but why Al Gore changed his stripes on virtually every major issue. What philosophical concerns, if any, prompted his many changes of heart? And how can we be sure that fickle organ won't prompt him to reverse course again?

In short: Is there a real Al Gore? If so, why are his supporters more concerned with ranting about Dick Cheney than singing hosannas to their man?

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate