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U.S.: Cheney Well-Known In Goverment And Business Circles

The U.S. Republican Party's likely presidential candidate -- George W. Bush -- has asked former U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to join his campaign and stand for the office of vice president in the 7 November election. In this report, Washington correspondent K.P. Foley provides some background on Cheney.

Washington, 26 July 2000 (RFE/RL) - Dick Cheney's is a well-known name in Washington government, international relations, and global business circles. Whether that name can help Texas Governor George W. Bush become president of the United States is a question that won't be answered until election day on 7 November.

For now, however, political commentators are applauding Bush for asking Cheney to campaign with him and serve as vice president, should Bush win.

Political scientist Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution in Washington told RFE/RL that he thinks Cheney is an excellent choice. He said of Cheney that:

"He brings great knowledge, experience, and gravitas to the ticket and as a conservative will keep the base of the party happy, but as a pragmatist will appeal to a broader constituency."

Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, who was also considered by Bush, told reporters that Cheney is "a man with substance with serious broad experience in the public as well as private sector."

Another contender for the Republican vice presidential slot, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said Cheney "represents the quality, character, and experience that America is searching for in national leadership."

Cheney also received a strong endorsement from the former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Army General Colin Powell. Powell was in overall command of the military forces that defeated Iraq. He told reporters:

"With Secretary Cheney you get someone who has a great depth of foreign policy. He has led the armed forces of the United States through challenging times, through restructuring to the end of the Cold War, so he certainly adds depth to the Bush administration."

Cheney is 59-years-old. He entered government service soon after graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1965. He worked at the White House for former President Richard Nixon. When Nixon was forced to resign halfway through his second term in 1974, Congressman Gerald Ford of Michigan was named -- according to constitutional procedure -- to succeed Nixon. Ford immediately asked Cheney to serve as his chief of staff, and at the age of 34, Cheney was the youngest man to ever hold that appointed post.

After Ford left office in 1977, Cheney was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the sole member for Wyoming, a huge but sparsely populated state in the upper western United States. He was elected to six two-year terms and rose to the third-ranking Republican Party post in the house.

Cheney returned to the executive branch of government in 1989, when Governor Bush's father, former President George Bush, appointed Cheney Secretary of Defense. Cheney managed the Defense Department through the allied victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. He also oversaw the first big wave of post-Cold War defense cuts while admonishing Congress against cutting too deeply and too rapidly.

After President Bush lost the 1992 election to President Bill Clinton, Cheney returned to private business. He is the chief executive officer of the Halliburton Company of Dallas, Texas. The firm is a major international oil services concern, and Cheney has made many trips to the Caucasus on his firm's behalf.

The consensus seems to be that Cheney is a skilled administrator who also knows how to work with the Congress. There have been questions about his health, however. Under the constitution, the vice president is first in line for the presidency should anything happen to the incumbent. Cheney has a history of heart problems. He suffered three heart attacks by the age of 48, and he has also undergone coronary artery bypass surgery.

Prominent heart surgeon Denton Cooley, director of the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, said in a statement Monday that he reviewed Cheney's health record at the request of former President Bush, with Cheney's permission.

Cooley said he consulted with Cheney's Washington cardiologist, Jonathan Reiner, who gave Cheney a clean bill of health. In a statement, Cooley said that, "In a recent checkup by Dr. Reiner, he declared that Mr. Cheney is in good health with normal cardiac function."

In announcing his selection, Governor Bush said: "I am proud to announce that Dick Cheney, a man of great integrity, sound judgment, and experience is my choice to be the next vice president of the United States."

Cheney replied:

"Governor, I am honored and proud to join your team and I enthusiastically accept the challenge for this reason: I believe you have the vision and the courage to be a great president."

Bush and Cheney will formally accept the Republican nomination at the national party convention that convenes Monday. They will then prepare to campaign against the likely Democratic Party nominee, Vice President Al Gore.

The Democrats' convention begins 14 August. Gore is said to be considering a number of vice presidential possibilities, including former Senator George Mitchell of Maine, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.