The Blog

The Veep, Big Time

Dick Cheney Takes Center Stage.

11:00 PM, Aug 31, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The result, he says, is that reporters regurgitate the almost-humorous economic analyses of the Kerry campaign. "Kerry has worked hard to try to find some way to portray the economy as bad," says Cheney. "He came up with his own Misery Index, which-amazingly enough-shows the golden years as the Carter administration in the '70s. . . . the era of malaise. . . . Two people think those were the golden years, Jimmy Carter and John Kerry. I think the economy is doing very well, and I think, try as they might, the Democrats are having real trouble trying to portray it as something other than that."

Conservatives have been critical of the Bush administration at several points throughout the first term. Perhaps nothing has been as disappointing to small-government advocates as the increases in federal government spending since January 2001. A recent Cato Institute study found that "nondefense discretionary outlays will increase about 36 percent during President Bush's first term in office." Cheney is unapologetic about the increases, citing a slow economy made slower by the attacks of September 11. Still, without getting specific, he seems to acknowledge that such spending is a problem. "I think we will be relatively tough in a second term with respect to spending limits because it's important to do so, and the president's clearly indicated that it's a concern."

Aides familiar with Cheney's speech say the address this evening will do three things: remind voters that America is a country of opportunity, place this election in historical context, and present voters with what the Bush campaign sees as a stark choice between two radically different philosophies. Like President Bush's speech on Thursday, it will include both a strong defense of the first term and a preview of a second-term agenda. The vice president, picking up on themes in Monday's speeches by Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, will portray his boss as a decisive leader who does not shrink from making difficult decisions.

More than anything, aides say, Cheney will present two contrasting philosophies for governing America in times of peril. The Democratic left may view the Kerry-Edwards team as centrist; Cheney does not. Come November, Cheney believes, Americans will have a clear choice.

Stephen F. Hayes, a staff writer at The Weekly Standard, is author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America. (HarperCollins)