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Cheney gives delegates some Demo ‘red meat’ to chew on

SHARE Cheney gives delegates some Demo ‘red meat’ to chew on

PHILADELPHIA — For more than a week loyal Republicans, anticipating their national convention here, have been fed lettuce, getting nothing but kindness from Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his newly selected running mate, Dick Cheney.

They were hungry for a little red meat.

And Wednesday night, Cheney, in the soft-spoken but firm manner of a grandfather disciplining ungrateful grandchildren, served it up.

The former secretary of defense from the cold hills of Casper, Wyo., wowed the National Republican Convention with his acceptance speech.

Interrupted 40 times by cheers, half a dozen times by chants from the gleeful delegates in the First Union Center, Cheney said simply that President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were one in the same. They can't be trusted; it's a waste to try.

Perhaps worst of all, said Cheney, the pair have squandered their opportunity to honorably lead the nation. "These have been years of prosperity in our land, but little purpose in the White House."

The impeached, but not removed, Clinton may hold on to power until the last hour of the last day of his administration. "But, my friends," said Cheney, "that last hour is coming. That last day is near. The wheel has turned. And it's time for them to go."

That brought extended chants from the delegates — "time to go, time to go."

Utah Lt. Gov. Olene Walker summed up the feeling well when she said after Cheney's speech, "Boy, were we ready for that!"

It has become a tradition in both Democratic and Republican parties for the vice presidential nominee to lay into the opposition during his party's convention. And while Cheney did that Wednesday, his tough talk still didn't have the sting or bitterness that marred some previous GOP conventions. Still, his meaning was clear.

Time and again, Cheney tied Gore to Clinton, warning that the vice president would try to step out of Clinton's shadow. "As the man from Hope (Arkansas) goes home to — well, New York (where his wife, Hillary, is running for the U.S. Senate) — Mr. Gore will try to separate himself. But somehow we will never see one without thinking of the other."

Cheney said starting "on the first hour of the first day (Bush) will restore decency and integrity to the oval office." He will lead "by conviction, not calculation."

The 59-year-old Cheney rarely raised his voice in the half-hour speech accepting the Republicans' unanimous nomination. And Bush didn't visit the hall, either through TV hook-up or brief personal visit.

It was Cheney's night. And he made the most of it.

"In this election, they will speak endlessly of risk . . . we will speak of progress. They will make accusations . . . we will make proposals. They will feed fear . . . we will appeal to hope. They will offer more lectures and legalisms, and carefully worded denials. We offer a better way . . . and a stiff dose of truth."

Cheney was introduced by his wife, Lynne, who said his measure as a man and leader can be clearly defined by his love of fly fishing, his disdain of chatter-boxes. She said Bush will help educate children, save Social Security and rebuild the military.

Those were all things that Clinton and Gore could have done, or even tried to do, but instead they wasted opportunities and did nothing while blamingothers, Cheney said.

To America's military, for whose well-being Cheney was once responsible, he promised: "Help is on the way."

That, too, brought chants from the delegates "help is on the way, help is on the way."

"Does anyone, Republican or Democrat, seriously believe that under Mr. Gore the next four years would be any different from the last eight?" asked Cheney. "No!" screamed back the thousands in the hall.

Can anyone say the man to unite our economy, bring a fresh start to Washington and change the tone of our politics is Al Gore? Asked Cheney.

"No!" shouted the delegates.

In ending, Cheney said, "Let us go forth from this hall committed to restoring decency and honor to our republic."

Thursday is, Bush's night. He'll officially accept the presidential nomination of the Republican Party — something that was decided in early March when he swept through a number of big states' primaries.

In a prime-time speech carried by all the major TV networks, Bush will try to ride the wave of enthusiasm Cheney set Wednesday.

But there'll be some interesting moments before the acceptance speech, which is usually seen by political pundits as an important event, since so many

Americans will be watching, listening or reading about it.

California legislator Abel Maldonado will give a speech in Spanish and George P. Bush, Bush's young nephew, will give a bilingual address about the challenges of young Americans , both acts in keeping with the theme of the GOP gathering, currying favor with minorities and building a big tent for the Republican Party.

But perhaps the oddest addition to the agenda is actress Bo Derek, who is scheduled to introduce Maldonado. Derek became famous in the 1980s for appearing nude in Playboy Magazine and taking her clothes off in a number of films, including "10." Wearing only the corn-rows in her blonde hair, she became an over-night sex symbol. Derek's inclusion has already brought complaints from some conservative Republicans, including some in the Utah delegation.