In 2000 at this time
in the primary season, George W. Bush vanquished his rival Senator John McCain.
Four years later, the tables have turned and six Democrat presidential candidates
are struggling to slow Senator John Kerry's massive momentum. While talk
of a Kerry-John Edwards ticket is widespread, few people are considering
who should be President's Bush running mate.
On January 27, however, MSNBC.com columnist Jeannette Walls broke the silence,
reporting that President Bush would replace Vice President Dick Cheney and
that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the frontrunner. A White
House source then quelled at least part of the rumor, telling the New York Daily News,
"Let's think about this. The president is going to shore up his conservative
base by dumping a guy who's wildly popular with the base and replacing him
with a guy who's pro-choice, a loose cannon and has no foreign policy experience?"
Well, how about a guy who's pro-life, only a slightly loose cannon, and has
extensive foreign policy experience?
That man is John McCain. With the latest Newsweek poll showing Bush
behind Kerry, the President should reach out to his former rival who energetically
campaigned for him during the 2004 New Hampshire primary.
Before examining how McCain so perfectly fits the bill, let's acknowledge
that Cheney has been a great Vice President. Despite suffering from a heart
condition that could make nearly a year of non-stop campaigning daunting,
Cheney has been remarkably effective, particularly on foreign policy. Indeed,
the power of his ideas and the degree of his influence are precisely why
he is so loathed by liberals.
Unfortunately, the relentless attacks by the Democrat presidential candidates
and their allies in the media have taken their toll on Cheney. Only 20% of
respondents had a favorable view of Cheney according to a January CBS News/New York Times poll.
In the campaign, Cheney will face continued Halliburton-related criticisms,
which conveniently overlook his divestment of company stock before becoming
Vice President. He must also contend with a Supreme Court decision before
the election that could result in the disclosure of documents from the Energy
Task Force he headed. This material could provide fodder for more Democrat
distortions. Sadly, Cheney's boardroom personality makes him ill-suited to
respond to the often spurious attacks directed at him.
McCain, on the other hand, would buttress Bush's political vulnerabilities
as he prepares to face a Kerry-Edwards ticket. First, and most obviously,
not only does McCain's war heroism equal Kerry's, but he did not throw away
his medals and side with Jane Fonda upon his return.
McCain would also shore up Bush's shaky support among fiscal conservatives.
He voted against the massive Medicare bill, the bloated farm bill, and the
pork-laden energy bill. With McCain, voters can be plausibly reassured that
the administration will cut spending and reduce the deficit in its second
Even McCain's position on campaign finance will bolster Republicans' newfound
religion on this issue in 2004. After unsuccessfully challenging the McCain-Feingold
bill before the Supreme Court, the Republican National Committee recently
asked the Federal Election Commission to apply the legislation to cover the
so-called "independent groups" that billionaire George Soros will use to
buy the presidency for the Democrats.
While Cheney's home state of Wyoming is the nation's most reliable Republican
state, McCain's presence on the ticket would lock up Arizona, which Bush
narrowly won in 2000. The state has seen an influx of likely Democrat voters
from California and Mexico in the last four years, making it a target for
Democrats in 2004. McCain's heroism, not to mention his white hair, will
surely also play well among seniors in Florida.
Furthermore, McCain will run circles around an inexperienced Edwards in the
vice presidential debate on questions of foreign policy.
McCain would also bring several more overarching benefits to the ticket.
The two perceptions that gnaw Bush are that he is too cocky and that he misled
the country on Iraq. What defies cockiness and evinces humility more than
picking a former rival who even this year criticized the administration for
not controlling spending?
Democrats' questioning of Bush's honesty on weapons of mass destruction rings
hollow given that President Clinton and his administration strongly believed
Saddam had such weapons and was developing more. However, perception is reality
and Bush's honesty will be under fire in 2004. McCain, who dubbed his 2000
campaign the "Straight Talk Express," would reinforce the integrity of the
If you think a Bush-McCain ticket is beyond the realm of possibility, just
remember the re-election campaign's website is simply georgewbush.com.
Marc A. Levin is an appellate lawyer, President of the American Freedom Center, and Associate Editor of The Austin Review.