Bush Chooses His Running Mate; All Signs Point to Cheney for Job

Share via

Gov. George W. Bush “has made up his mind” and settled on Dick Cheney as his vice presidential running mate, a Republican close to both men said Monday.

A formal announcement is expected today in Austin.

“He’s the best guy and the more Bush got to see him, the more he realized it,” the senior Republican said of Cheney, a former Defense secretary and longtime Washington insider. “In Bush’s mind, he has been finalizing it. But Bush has been there since the middle of last week.”

Karen Hughes, the campaign’s communications director, confirmed that Bush had settled on his choice after weeks of deliberations, but said, “he has not yet notified that individual or told anyone else” and would not make that phone call before today.


Returning from a weekend retreat with his decision made--but his lips sealed--Bush offered no clues to his thinking. And aides cautioned that a surprise might still be in store.

But a senior campaign aide said Monday night there was “a strong assumption” that Cheney would be selected.

Independently, several signs pointed in the direction of the 59-year-old former White House chief of staff, who spent three months coordinating Bush’s search for a running mate before making his way to the top of the governor’s list.

Normally tight-lipped campaign aides seemed eager to deflect questions posed about Cheney’s health. The former Wyoming congressman suffered three heart attacks by age 48, but has reported no serious health problems since undergoing a quadruple bypass operation in 1988.

Hughes was asked whether someone with a history of heart problems like Cheney’s could fulfill Bush’s own vice presidential criterion--that the nominee be fit to serve as president.

“I can assure you that anyone who’s a potential candidate has been fully vetted for legal, financial, their record and their medical history,” Hughes said. “All of the candidates being considered have impressive records of service.”


Hughes also confirmed that former President Bush had asked Denton A. Cooley, a Houston cardiac surgeon and family friend, to assess Cheney’s physical fitness and “offer some opinions to him as part of our medical vetting process.”

Cheney Sells Half His Stock in Dallas Firm

Separately, it was learned Monday that Cheney has sold nearly half his interest in stock in Halliburton Co., the Dallas-based energy and construction firm where he serves as chief executive. According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, on May 31 Cheney sold 100,000 shares in the firm for an estimated $5.1 million.

Legally, the SEC requires officers, directors and major shareholders of publicly traded companies to disclose when they buy or sell company stock, to keep the public informed of such activities.

Last week, he reportedly told Halliburton board members there was a good chance he would be selected to serve as Bush’s running mate. In a move clearing the way for his selection, Cheney also changed his voter registration last week from Texas to Wyoming, to avoid constitutional problems posed when a presidential and vice presidential candidate hail from the same state.

Cheney represents a safe, traditional pick for Bush, who once promised his running mate would be an “electrifying” choice.

It is traditional in the sense of bringing balance to the ticket, with Cheney’s long Washington resume and extensive foreign policy experience offsetting Bush’s slender record of five years as governor.


And it is safe because Cheney, as a reliable conservative, would be less provocative than a backer of abortion rights, such as Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas J. Ridge or New York Gov. George Pataki.

Cheney’s emergence as Bush’s pick came on a day of manic speculation, as rumors bounced from Austin to the television airwaves and back again.

At one point, CBS News reported Bush had called Gen. Colin L. Powell to try to talk him into joining the ticket, despite Powell’s adamant statements of noninterest. Aides to Bush and Powell both dismissed the report.

Downtown Austin, meantime, was in a state of journalistic frenzy as correspondents from around the world converged on the state capital in anticipation of Bush’s decision.

The governor returned to Austin on Monday afternoon after spending the weekend at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, where he pondered his pick and worked on the acceptance speech he will deliver at next week’s GOP convention in Philadelphia.

Stepping from a motorcade of sport-utility vehicles, Bush waved to a thicket of reporters outside the governor’s mansion and shouted out: “No news today. No news today. I will let you know soon.”


For Cheney, on the job in Dallas, it was just another day at the office. “It’s a busy Monday morning,” said Guy Marcus, a Halliburton spokesman, who said Cheney was “working--working for Halliburton.”

But in an early taste of political combat--and his next assignment--Cheney was attacked by the Sierra Club, which criticized his record during 10 years in Congress. On Monday, the environmental group formally endorsed Democratic Vice President Al Gore.

“Adding Cheney to Bush’s ticket would make a bad situation for the environment worse,” Sierra Club President Robert Cox said. “A Bush-Cheney ticket would be just what the oil industry wants. They both support weakening the Clean Air Act, oppose protection of public lands and have consistently opposed efforts to protect the health and safety of our environment.”

On another front, a bipartisan group promoting the choice of a female vice president also expressed disappointment at Cheney’s evident selection.

“Mr. Cheney certainly holds stellar national defense credentials, but as he should know his overall resume has enormous weaknesses as a V.P. candidate,” said Mosemarie Boyd, a spokeswoman for the group, American Women Presidents, which continued to pitch former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole for the No. 2 slot.

In Wyoming, news of Cheney’s probable selection was met with home-state pride, despite the fact he’s more commonly associated with Washington.


“We have never given up our claim to Dick Cheney. We are all tickled to death,” said Becky Constantino, chairwoman of the Wyoming Republican Party. She described Cheney, who served as Defense secretary under President Bush and chief of staff in the Gerald R. Ford White House, as “a person who listens to all sides of an issue. . . . He’s someone I can call on when I need advice; he’s honorable and thoughtful.”

Others Mentioned for Post Wait and Watch

For others among the also-mentioned, Monday was a day to wait and watch as patiently as possible.

Former Sen. John C. Danforth of Missouri, the subject of widespread speculation over the weekend, continued to dismiss his chances of being selected. “I’m not on standby,” he said in St. Louis. “For me it’s a day at the office.”

Staffers for Ridge, once considered a top prospect for the GOP ticket, declined comment on his public schedule for today, when Bush is expected to finally reveal his pick. “He has no public events,” said Tom Charles, a Ridge spokesman.

Others most prominently mentioned include Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, Sen. Charles Hagel of Nebraska, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Tennessee Sens. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, Ohio Rep. John Kasich and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio and Pataki.


Times political writer Ronald Brownstein, Times Washington Bureau Chief Doyle McManus and Times staff writers Julie Cart and T. Christian Miller also contributed to this story.