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Breaking News

Cheney Accepts Bush V.P. Offer

Aired July 25, 2000 - 8:30 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking here at a thumbnail sketch of the man of the hour this morning, that man being Richard Cheney, Dick Cheney, the man who has reportedly now been selected by George W. Bush to be his vice presidential running mate.

Dick Cheney is 59 years of age. He, of course, is the former secretary of defense, served some six terms in the House before that position, and before that was even the chief of staff or at least acting chief of staff for President Ford during his administration.

Let's get some more now on what's been happening this morning from outside the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas.

We go back now to Jonathan Karl.

Jon, the big news.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big news is that George W. Bush has, as expected, made that phone call to Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has accepted the offer that was extended during that call, and we now have a Bush-Cheney ticket. The formal announcement coming 2:00 Texas time, 3:00 Eastern time, with a rally, the first rally of the Bush-Cheney ticket taking place on the campus of the University of Texas right here in Austin.

Here in the governor's mansion, we are starting to hear some movements, staff coming in, preparing for that announcement.

HARRIS: Are they making statements at all or are they just basically continuing to play along with the secrecy?

KARL: Actually, Leon, just a few minutes ago, we actually got our first piece of paper, an actually press release that says vice presidential announcement, it doesn't say it will be Dick Cheney, but that press release, which Mike Rosselli (ph) has just handed me, actually formally tells us exactly where that announcement will take place and at the time.

So secrecy is beginning to give way to the reality here that we have a Bush-Cheney ticket.

HARRIS: Earlier I asked you about whether or not the Governor Bush is going to go and hit the hustings and try to make the case that this was his decision and had nothing at all to do with his father or his father's influence. Do you know whether or not any of the other Bush family members are actually there at the mansion?

KARL: We have not seen any of the other family members at the mansion. That would be a surprise if any of them were actually here for the announcement. But you know, what we are going to see is George W. Bush making the case that this was his decision, and his alone. Although he has said for some time that his father has been, not necessarily officially part of the process, but that he has talked to his father, the former president, about the process, about the decision, He said it was something that he was very interested in.

And, of course, Cheney comes to this ticket as a confidant of the former president, somebody who served as his secretary of defense during the shining moments -- what is seen here as the shining moment of the Bush presidency, the Persian Gulf war.

So there will be a lot of pressure on Bush to get out there -- on the younger Bush, George W. Bush, to make it clear that it was George W.'s decision, not George Herbert Walker's decision, and that should be a fairly easy case to make. I mean, George Bush has kept very close counsel on this.

And although he certainly would have gotten input from his father, this is a decision that he's gone to great pains to say is his own.

HARRIS: Did you detect any sensitivity there amongst the campaign staffers that you have been speaking with, and that you have been using as contacts at all, to this idea that George Bush is going to assemble by using, by getting guys like Dick Cheney and Colin Powell around him. That he, by collecting people with such gravitas, he is going to communicate the message that he has none himself?

KARL: Well, they deny that that is a fear. But that has certainly been a lot of talk, even among some Republican circles outside of Austin, back in Washington, that that is a risk with this ticket. But they say that, look, if you look at balance, this is good balanced ticket. Because George W. Bush, from their perspective, has appropriate experience, five years as governor of the third-largest state in the country, as they say repeatedly.

And what Cheney does is he brings some experience on the international side. Of course, he has also got extensive experience in the private sector, and as 12-year member of Congress.

But they believe that, look, that is not a fear. They think this is a safe choice. There is no risk to this choice. The only possible downside is it doesn't bring added geographically diversity. I mean, there was no question that Bush had a very good chance of carrying the state of Wyoming, and the state of Wyoming has never been perceived as a great battleground state with its three electoral votes. But they think that it's a safe choice. It was not a risk because Cheney is somebody who has been in the public eye for a long time, somebody who has been thoroughly vetted, and somebody who comes with experience.

HARRIS: He has been in the public eye, John, but one thing that raises curiosity in me is, how will he do on the campaign trail? I don't think I have seen or heard him give anything near like a campaign speech.

KARL: Well, that is a great question, Leon. You know, he did go out a bit in 1995 because Cheney, himself, had considered a run for president, had considered a run for president in 1996. So he had gone out. What he had done is gone around the country a bit stumping for congressional candidates, never went out stumping, there was never an announcement or even an exploratory committee. He never got that far in his own bid.

But he had thought about it, and he went around during the '94 campaign stumping for congressional candidates around the country. But he is not somebody who has been a presence on the campaign trail.

And that is the big question. He was never really seen a particularly vibrant campaigner. He is somebody who was widely respected in Washington, because of his role, because of what he did, not because of his role in the campaign trail. So that will be the big question. We will see that answered, by the way, at 2:00 local at the University of Texas, the first rally.

HARRIS: He gets to make his first impression there. All right. thanks, Jonathan Karl, appreciate it -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Dick Cheney is no stranger to new challenges. After all, when he took over as defense secretary back in 19990, he was a man with little to no military experience.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by.

Jamie, you were covering the Pentagon at the time, what kind of man is Dick Cheney?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dick Cheney came to the Pentagon in 1989. Of course, originally President Bush wanted Texas Senator John Tower to be defense secretary. But when that nomination wasn't approved he quickly turned to Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney. Cheney did have no military experience, but he was almost immediately thrust into making military decisions. You may recall that in December of 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama and arrested Manuel Noriega, and that was probably the first action he was involved in.

And of course, he is probably best remembered for his role as defense secretary during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Again, it was Cheney, a man with no military experience, who, according to the memoirs of General Colin Powell, sent back the original invasion plan that was drawn up by General Norman Schwarzkopf for more work, saying he was disappointed that the plans didn't provide the president, President Bush at the time, with enough options for a full-scale ground invasion. The plan Schwarzkopf had put together had been rushed somewhat. It was based on the forces in the area at the time. Apparently, not a whole lot of people were happy with it. But Cheney is credited with sending that back, and having a more robust plan drawn up.

But while he is known for his role in these military actions. his biggest job really at the Pentagon during those four years was to downsize the Pentagon. While he was in Congress, he was a big supporter of the military buildup during the Reagan years, and then, as he become defense secretary, he found he was given the task of cutting the Pentagon's budget in the first year by $10 billion.

He killed the B-22 program that was a pet project of the Marines, he made a lot of other cuts. That program was eventually restored by the Clinton administration. But Cheney was instrumental in downsizing the Pentagon, reducing the size of the force, and cutting out unneeded weapons programs, as the Pentagon entered the 1990s.

LIN: Jamie, and certainly doing so, rattling a lot of the nerves and constituents of many of his fellow congressmen on Capitol Hill. Does this tell us, then, that he us not adverse to taking risks?

MCINTYRE: Well, he was pretty decisive guy. One of the things he showed right away was he was going to display -- reinforce the idea that in the United States there is civilian control of the military. The generals don't run the place. That was made clear just a couple of day after he took office when he dressed down the Air Force chief, General Larry Welsh (ph), for appearing to negotiate with Congress over the deployment of Minuteman missiles.

Cheney made a public statement, essentially saying that Welsh didn't speak for the Pentagon, and spoke to him in private about that. And that was something that was reinforced later during the buildup to the Persian Gulf War, when he fired the Air Force chief who replaced Welsh, General Mike Dugan (ph), for making comments to press that Cheney thought didn't reflect the administration's view, and perhaps gave away some of the planning for Operation Desert Storm. In that case, he fired General Mike Dugan.

And so Cheney demonstrated that he could be very decisive.

LIN: Certainly. Thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Leon.

HARRIS: Let's go now to outside the former defense secretary's home in Dallas, Texas. Our Charles Zewe standing by there.

Charles, what's the latest from there?

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still the same, Leon.

We are expecting Mr. Cheney to emerge sometime shortly, the normal logistics of this operation will take over, we haven't seen any signs of any Secret Service detail or anything like that, any sort of security presence here. It has all been very calm, very quiet here in Highland Park area of Dallas.

But later on this morning, perhaps within two or three hours, some necessary logistics will take hold. We expect that Mr. Cheney will be flying down to Austin. It is about a three-hour drive, but nobody expects he will drive that infamous I-35 corridor down to Austin. It is about a 30-35 minute flight down to Austin, and then we expect that he will meet, of course, with Governor Bush before the announcement over at the University of Texas this afternoon.

Everything quiet here. We expect that to change, though, as the hours go on -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, Charles Zewe standing by outside of Dick Cheney's home in Dallas, Texas. We will check back with you later on to see if there is any picking up in the activity there.

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