Republicans Delighted by Cheney

AUSTIN, Texas -- George W. Bush on Tuesday reached back to his father's administration and selected Dick Cheney as his running mate, calling the former U.S. defense secretary and energy company executive a "man of great integrity and judgment and experience."

Republicans instantly applauded the choice, hailing Cheney's extensive r?sum? and asserting that he was a solid, albeit unglamorous, politician who would bring gravitas and credibility to the ticket.

"Dick Cheney is rock-solid, battle-tested, and will be unfailingly loyal to Governor Bush," said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who had been under consideration for the job himself.

But Democrats also cheered the choice, although for entirely different reasons, as they quickly portrayed Cheney as a right-wing extremist who together with Bush would represent the first "Big Oil" ticket in American history.

In his announcement speech, Bush made it clear that Cheney f the man he tapped to lead his vice presidential search effort f had been his favorite for some time. Bush said that as he worked with Cheney reviewing other candidates, "I realized that the person who was best qualified to be my vice presidential nominee was working by my side."

Vice President Al Gore led the Democratic reaction: "Governor Bush has now chosen his running mate and there's no question that the American people will have a choice between two very different tickets and visions for our future."

Gore added that he would select a running mate not only prepared to become president but someone "who shares my values, someone who will stand up for the people, not the powerful, willing to take on the big polluters, the big drug companies, the HMOs and big oil."

Bush and Cheney made their public debut at a rally a few blocks from the Texas state capitol. Cheney said he had initially declined to be considered for the job when Bush suggested it last March because he was "deeply involved with running a business, enjoying private life, and I certainly wasn't looking to return to public service."

But he said he became impressed by Bush's "unique vision" and eventually "I learned how persuasive he could be."

He then turned toward Bush, who was standing next to him on the stage, and added: "I look forward to working with you governor to change the tone in Washington, to restore a spirit of civility and respect and cooperation. It's time for America's leaders to stop pointing the finger of blame and begin sharing the credit for success."

Neither man mentioned Cheney's history of three mild heart attacks in the 1970s and 1980s and quadruple bypass surgery in 1988. But Bush aides were quick to brush aside any concerns, noting that he had been cleared to serve by his own doctor and a top Houston cardiologist.

The campaign released a medical summary from George Washington University Medical Center physician Gary Malakoff, that said Cheney was "in excellent health," despite the heart troubles, a "history of elevated cholesterol" and treatment for skin cancer.

Tuesday's announcement was somewhat anti-climactic. Despite Bush's efforts to keep the process secret, news organizations have been reporting since Friday that Cheney appeared to the leading contender.

Cheney, 59, has one of the broadest resumes in political life. He served as chief of staff under President Gerald Ford, as member of Congress for a decade, as defense secretary under Bush's father and most recently as chief executive of Halliburton Co., a major energy supply and construction company based in Dallas.