Dick’s face was hard to read. He betrayed no emotion. He stared at the cows grazing under the broiling sun at our ranch in Crawford, Texas.
It was July 3, 2000. Ten weeks earlier, after securing the Republican presidential nomination, I had sent campaign manager Joe Allbaugh to visit Dick Cheney in Dallas. I asked him to find answers to two questions. First,was Dick interested in being a candidate for vice president? If not, was hewilling to help me find a running mate?
Dick told Joe he was happy with his life and finished with politics. But hewould be willing to lead the VP search committee.
As I expected, Dick did a meticulous, thorough job. In our first meeting, I laid out my top criteria for a running mate. I wanted someone with whom I was comfortable, someone willing to serve as part of a team, someone with the Washington experience that I lacked, and, most important, someone prepared to serve as president at any moment.
Dick recruited a small team of lawyers and discreetly gathered reams of paperwork on potential candidates. By the time he came to see me at the ranch in July, we hadnarrowed the list to nine people. But in my mind, there was always a tenth.
After a relaxed lunch with Laura, Dick and I walked into the yard behind ourold wooden ranch house. I listened patiently as Dick talked me through the search committee’s final report. Then I looked him in the eye and said,“Dick, I’ve made up my mind.”
(...) A president’s first major personnel decision comes before taking office.The vice presidential selection provides voters with a window into a candidate’s decision-making style. It reveals how careful and thorough he or she will be. And it signals a potential president’s priorities for the country.
By the time I clinched the Republican nomination in March 2000, I knewquite a bit about vice presidents. I had followed the selection process closely when Dad was discussed as a possible running mate for RichardNixon in 1968 and Gerald Ford in 1976. I had watched him serve eight years at President Reagan’s side. I had observed his relationship with Dan Quayle. And I remembered the vice presidential horror story of my youth, when Democratic nominee George McGovern picked Tom Eagleton to be his running mate, only to learn later that Eagleton had suffered several nervous breakdowns and undergone electroshock therapy.
I was determined not to repeat that mistake, which was one reason I chose someone as careful and deliberate as Dick Cheney to run the vetting process. By early summer, we were focused on the finalists. Four werecurrent or former governors: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, Frank Keating of Oklahoma, and John Engler of Michigan. The other five were current or former senators: Jack Danforth of Missouri, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Bill Frist and Fred Thompson of Tennessee.
I talked through the choices with Dick, Laura, Karl, Karen, and a few othertrusted aides. Karen recommended Tom Ridge, a Vietnam veteran from akey swing state. As a fellow chief executive, Tom would be plenty capable of running the country if anything happened to me. He was also pro-choice,which would appeal to moderates in both parties, while turning off some inthe Republican base. Others made the case for Chuck Hagel, who sat onthe Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would bring foreign policy experience. I was close with Frank Keating and John Engler, and I knew I would work well with either. Jon Kyl was a rock-solid conservative whowould help shore up the base. Lamar Alexander, Bill Frist, and Fred Thompson were fine men, and they might help me pull off an upset in Tennessee, the home state of the Democratic nominee, Vice President AlGore.
I was intrigued by Jack Danforth. An ordained minister, Jack was honest, ethical, and forthright. His voting record over three terms in the Senate was solid. He had earned my respect with his defense of Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991. He was a principled conservative who could also appeal across party lines. As a dividend, he might help carry Missouri, which would be a key battleground state.
I thought seriously about offering the job to Danforth, but I found myself returning again and again to Dick Cheney. Dick’s experience was more extensive and diverse than that of anyone else on my list. As White House chief of staff, he had helped President Ford guide the nation through the aftermath of Watergate. He had served more than a decade in Congress and never lost an election. He had been a strong secretary of defense. He had run a global business and understood the private sector. Unlike any of the senators or governors on my list, he had stood next to presidents during the most gut-wrenching decisions that reach the Oval Office, including sending Americans to war. Not only would Dick be a valuable adviser, he would be fully capable of assuming the presidency.
While Dick knew Washington better than almost anyone, he didn’t behave like an insider. He allowed subordinates to get credit. When he spoke at meetings, his carefully chosen words carried credibility and influence.
Like me, Dick was a westerner. He enjoyed fishing and spending time outdoors. He had married Lynne Vincent, his high school sweetheart fromWyoming, and he was deeply devoted to their daughters, Liz and Mary. He had a practical mind and a dry sense of humor. He told me he had started at Yale a few years before me, but the university asked him not to comeback. Twice. He said he had once filled out a compatibility test designed to match his personality with the most appropriate career. When the results came in, Dick was told he was best suited to be a funeral director.
As I mulled the decision, I called Dad for an outside opinion. I read him the names I was considering. He knew most of the candidates and said they were all fine people. “What about Dick Cheney?” I asked.
“Dick would be a great choice,” he said. “He would give you candid and solid advice. And you’d never have to worry about him going behind yourback.”
By the time Dick came to the ranch to deliver his final report, I had decided to make another run at him. As he finished his briefing, I said, “Dick, you are the perfect running mate."
While I had dropped hints before, he could tell I was serious this time.
Finally, he said, “I need to talk to Lynne.” I took that as a promising sign. He told me that he had had three heart attacks and that he and Lynne were happy with their life in Dallas. Then he said, “Mary is gay.” I could tell what he meant by the way he said it. Dick clearly loved his daughter. I felt he was gauging my tolerance. “If you have a problem with this, I’m not your man,”he was essentially saying.
I smiled at him and said, “Dick, take your time. Please talk to Lynne. And Icould not care less about Mary’s orientation.”
Later that day, I talked to a few trusted aides. I didn’t want to put all mycards on the table yet. I just told them I was thinking seriously about Cheney. Most were stunned. Karl was opposed. I asked him to come to the Governor’s Mansion to make his case. I invited one person to listen in. That would be Dick. I believe in airing out disagreements. I also wanted to cement a relationship of trust between Karl and Dick in case they ended up together in the White House.
Karl gamely delivered his arguments: Cheney’s presence on the ticket would add nothing to the electoral map, since Wyoming’s three electoralvotes were among the most reliably Republican in the country. Cheney’srecord in Congress was very conservative and included some hot-button votes that would be used against us. Dick’s heart condition would raise questions about his fitness to serve. Choosing Dad’s defense secretary could make people question whether I was my own man. Finally, Dick lived in Texas, and the Constitution prohibited two residents of the same statefrom receiving Electoral College votes.
I listened carefully to Karl’s objections. Dick said he thought they were pretty persuasive. I didn’t. Dick’s old congressional record didn’t bother me. I considered his experience on Capitol Hill an asset. His lack of impact on the electoral map did not concern me either. I believe voters base their decision on the presidential candidate, not the VP.
As for Karl’s concern about picking Dad’s defense secretary, I was convinced that the benefits of choosing a serious, accomplished running mate would compensate for any perception that I was falling back on Dad for help.
Two concerns did need to be addressed: Dick’s health and residency status. Dick agreed to have a medical exam and sent the results to Dr.Denton Cooley, a respected Houston cardiologist. The doctor said Dick’s heart would hold up to the stresses of the campaign and the vice presidency. Dick and Lynne would be able to change their voter registration to Wyoming, the state Dick had represented in Congress and still considered home.
The way Dick handled those delicate weeks deepened my confidence that he was the right choice. He never once pushed me to make up my mind. In fact, he insisted that I meet with Jack Danforth before I finalized my decision. Dick and I went to see Jack and his wife, Sally, in Chicago on July18. We had a relaxed, three-hour visit. My positive impressions of Jack were confirmed. But I had decided on Dick.
A week later, I made the formal offer. As was my habit, I got up around5:00 a.m. After two cups of coffee, I was anxious to get moving. I managed to wait until 6:22 a.m. before I called Dick. I caught him on the treadmill,which I considered a good sign. He and Lynne came down to Austin for the announcement that afternoon.
Ten years later, I have never regretted my decision to run with DickCheney. His pro-life, low-tax positions helped cement key parts of our base. He had great credibility when he announced that “Help is on the way”for the military. His steady, effective answers in the vice presidential debate with Joe Lieberman reassured voters about the strength of our ticket. It gave me comfort to know he would be ready to step in if something happened to me.
The real benefits of selecting Dick became clear fourteen months later. On a September morning in 2001, Americans awoke to an unimaginable crisis. The calm and quiet man I recruited that summer day in Crawford stood sturdy as an oak.Jack Danforth cuenta su versión al St. Louis Beacon:
That comes as news to Danforth, who told the Beacon in an interview Wednesday that "I don't know when that [Cheney] decision was made, or whether it was made before we went to Chicago, or what it was all about." Danforth recalls sending the documents required of potential running mates to Cheney and then having a change of heart weeks before the final Chicago meeting."I called them up and said, 'I've thought about it, and I really don't want to do it,'" Danforth said. "Then-Gov. Bush called me and said 'Are you sure?' and I said, 'I really don't want to do it.' And then I started getting phone calls from some mutual friends of Gov. Bush and me and I said, 'Well, I'll rethink it.'"
Finally, in July, "they flew Sally and me up to Chicago, where Bush was making a speech, on a Halliburton plane," Danforth recalls. [Cheney was then chief executive of the Halliburton oil services company.] "We had a long meeting with [Bush and Cheney] and I ended up saying to them, 'I really don't want to do this. But if you want me to, I'll do it.' That was how I put it."
Later, Bush called Danforth and told him that he had chosen Cheney.
Asked this week if he was surprised by the Cheney pick, Danforth said: "I really didn't know what to think of it, to tell you the truth. It was very hard -- and still is very hard -- for me to figure out what all that was about." Danforth said the vice presidency was not "something that I was pining for. ... Was it something that Sally wanted me to do? No, she really did not. That was very much on my mind."
(...) Danforth says he has no regrets about not becoming the vice presidential candidate. "I never had the ambition to be president or vice president. It's too much. It's too pre-emptive," he says. "If you're ever the president, that's all you are for the rest of your life."