Bush to offer job to Cheney

PHILADELPHIA - Texas Gov. George W. Bush on Monday selected former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to be his running mate, rounding out the GOP ticket with a Washington insider who played a pivotal role in his father's presidency.

Two highly placed GOP sources said Bush planned to make the offer Tuesday morning. Cheney has told associates he will accept it.

Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes confirmed that Bush had made his selection, but said, ''He has not yet notified that individual or told anyone else about his choice.'' Republicans open their presidential convention, where Bush will be officially nominated, next Monday.

Cheney brings the ticket a wealth of foreign policy experience and political stature - traits that Bush, a two-term Texas governor, lacks himself. He is a bridge between Bush and his father, former President Bush, who put Cheney in his Cabinet and promoted him for his son's ticket.

After promising an ''electrifying'' choice, Bush settled to take the safe route: Cheney is a rock-solid conservative who poses little or no political risk. Bolder choices were available, including abortion-rights Govs. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and George Pataki of New York.

Fashioning an impressive resume in two decades of public service, Cheney served as President Ford's chief of staff, six terms in Congress from Wyoming and four years as Pentagon chief, where he successfully executed the Persian Gulf War.

Cheney, 59, suffered three heart attacks by age 48, but a doctor commissioned by the Bush campaign issued a statement saying his health ''should not interfere with a strenuous political campaign.''

Bush, 54, plucked the former Pentagon chief from the private sector to head up his selection process, a three-month search that ended with Cheney's name atop the short list.

Returning home from his office at Halliburton Co. of Dallas, an energy company he heads, Cheney was greeted by reporters. ''Have a nice evening,'' he said, waving the journalists away.

He emerged as the leading candidate Friday, and was the only prospect under serious consideration after Bush emerged from seclusion from a weekend at his Texas ranch.

Even before the deal was sealed, Republican officials welcomed the prospect of a Bush-Cheney ticket.

Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, a contender for the job until the end, called Cheney ''a man with substance (with) serious broad experience in the public as well as private sector.''

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, another contender, said Cheney ''represents the quality, character and experience that America is searching for in national leadership.''

Vice President Al Gore, whose convention begins Aug. 14 in Los Angeles, is considering a number of candidates, including former Senate George Mitchell of Maine, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Bush had hoped to keep his selection a secret until his announcement, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

''No news today. No news today. No news today,'' Bush told reporters jostling for word of his choice outside the governor's mansion Monday afternoon. ''I will let you know soon.''

Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth lingered until the end on Bush's short list, but his prospects faded throughout the weekend as Bush mulled his options.

Among the GOP stalwarts who had been under consideration: Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, Ridge and Pataki; former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Fred Thompson and Frist of Tennessee; and Rep. John Kasich of Ohio.

With so much at stake, rumors and speculation buzzed throughout the GOP community here and in Washington. The hottest gossip: Retired Gen. Colin Powell, who has frustrated Bush with his refusal to serve on the ticket, had reportedly entered negotiations with the Bush camp.

Sources deep inside the Powell and Bush camps quickly denied the report.

All signs had pointed to Cheney for days. He changed his voter registration from Texas to Wyoming to avoid a hitch in the Constitution; he told business associates he had a good chance of getting the job and leaving his company, Halliburton Co. of Dallas; and he forwarded an all-clear health report from his doctors to Bush.

Cheney sold nearly half his interest in Halliburton stock - some 100,000 shares - last month, raising an estimated $5.1 million. Before the sale, Cheney held options on 229,000 shares.

The health report came at the behest of Bush and his father, former President Bush, both of whom wanted to know whether Cheney's history of heart trouble would pose a problem in the campaign.

Sensitive to suggestions that the elder Bush is a quiet power behind his son's White House bid, campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said the call to Cheney's doctor was the only action taken by the former president in the review process.

Cheney served as defense secretary under President Bush, helping the president forge an international coalition in the Persian Gulf War. Before that, he served six terms in Congress from Wyoming and as chief of staff for President Ford.

Bush has faced questions about whether he is ready to be president, and advisers believe a running mate who knows his way around the White House - and around the world - would fill in the so-called gravitas gap.

In Congress, Cheney appealed to moderates, but racked up a conservative voting record and was a solid Ronald Reagan supporter. He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Bush in 1992.

He is anti-abortion but says the party must accommodate Republicans on both sides of the debate.

Cheney suffered three mild heart attacks more than 10 years ago, including one while campaigning for the Wyoming House seat in the primaries. He has undergone coronary bypass surgery.

A rare black mark on his record: He admitted writing 21 bad checks while serving in the House, but told the Ethics Committee that investigated the House banking scandal that he always had a positive balance and no checks were returned for insufficient funds.

In 1991, he gave Pentagon briefings to GOP supporters who donated $5,000 to the Republican National Committee.


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