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Bush’s v.p. pick has merit

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By choosing Dick Cheney as his running mate, GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush has done something out of the ordinary in modern political thought. He has chosen someone on the basis of his ability to do the job.

Cheney does not come from a big state, guaranteeing a chunk of important electoral votes to the campaign. He does not ideologically represent a constituency that will guarantee a block of voters the main candidate could not attract on his own. He doesn't even bring a blast of charisma to the ticket.

What Cheney does bring is competence and a proven track record as secretary of defense during a major military undertaking. He brings, as his long-time friend Bill Frenzel told the New York Times, the confidence "that if anything happens to the president, the country will have a competent vice president to step in." Really, now, shouldn't that be the main consideration in choosing a running mate?

In other words, Bush appears to have chosen Cheney on merit. It will be interesting to see if Al Gore will do the same in choosing his own running mate.

From our vantage in the oft-forgotten West, the easy mistake would be to believe that Cheney, a former congressman from Wyoming, would bring a Western perspective to the White House — one that would keep some of the area's unique problems and concerns at the forefront of the administration. That would be a bit of wishful thinking. Cheney, no doubt, would have the influence to keep another Grand Staircase-Escalante disaster from occurring, but Bush isn't likely to begin pushing Westerners around in the first place. The truth is, Cheney is far removed from his days in Wyoming. His strength lies more in his experience as secretary of defense under President George Bush. It was then that he organized an invasion so thoroughly and completely that he was able to order out food and calmly watch it all unfold. Even though it stopped short of ousting Saddam Hussein, the military success of Desert Storm ranks among the most impressive in U.S. history.

Friends and opponents alike describe Cheney as supremely confident yet affable; the kind of person who has the ability to earn the respect and trust of those who otherwise disagree with his positions. His White House experience goes back to the Ford administration, when Cheney was chief of staff at the tender age of 34. He brings a level of knowledge and insider street smarts that George W. Bush lacks.

All in all, it was an impressive choice — one that puts a lot of pressure on the Democratic ticket.