To George W. Bush
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Perfect Fit
You probably did not know that I was not happy that you had given Dick Cheney the job of finding you a running mate. That's because of his friendships with the old Cold Warrior gang, to which I once belonged. I thought he would have a bias toward one of the "bombers," as Colin Powell refers to those Republicans who prefer to shoot first and ask questions later. I certainly was depressed last week when word came that John McCain -- a bomber if ever there was one -- put himself back in the running. So you may be surprised that, when I actually heard you were thinking of Cheney himself, all of a sudden I felt much better.
It is widely assumed that he is part of the old crowd. Rumsfeld certainly is, to a large degree. But Cheney is a different kind of man and I doubt he would allow you to be managed by the military-industrial complex. He knows it all too well. I've known Cheney for 30 years, since he worked for Don Rumsfeld, when Don was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and think of him as very patient, very methodical, very logical, and most of all, fair-minded and open to alternative views.
When I separate the Cold Warriors from the Diplomats, my litmus test is what happened at the end of the Gulf War. The Iraqi army was in full retreat, on its way out of Kuwait, and a decision had to be made by the high command -- your father in particular -- on whether or not to pursue the army into Baghdad and rip out Saddam Hussein. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was all for storming into Baghdad. Gen. Colin Powell was all for stopping at the border. It was Dick Cheney who broke the tie, siding with Colin Powell.
Ever since, the shoot-first crowd has criticized that decision. My old pals at The Wall Street Journal editorial page bring it up a couple of times a year. But it was a great decision, as it elevated our nation in the eyes of the Islamic world -- which allied with us in the coalition to expel Iraq, but which opposed further action and a march to Baghdad.
The Islamic world has not forgotten that critical decision and appreciates the role Dick Cheney played. There are a billion Muslims in the world, governor, and if you make it to the Oval Office -- as I believe you will -- they will feel more comfortable knowing there is a Cheney at your side, who showed his stuff with Colin Powell back then, and can be trusted to do so again. If you are going to be the president who makes sense out of this new world, where the U.S. clearly has the responsibility to "manage" the world, not "police" it, having two men near you who know how to use force, but prefer diplomacy first, will serve you well.
Here is the quick brief I sent out to my Polyconomics clients Saturday in the few minutes after I realized how serious you were about Cheney. It has some other surprises:
July 18, 2000
The report that Dick Cheney is now the frontrunner to be Bush's VP pick is very good news. I was really alarmed to think it would be John McCain or even Sen. Fred Thompson. That is because they represent distinct factions of the GOP and are hard-liners on military matters. Cheney was SecDef, but worked well with Colin Powell, who would be SecState. The two would be careful about a costly, gung-ho expansion of an ABM and prudent in the use of force in foreign dustups where U.S. involvement would be questionable.
Cheney also understands and appreciates supply-side economics better than any of the other veep candidates, having been present at the Creation, so to speak. I would not call him a supply-sider, because he is not that confirmed in his policy views, but it would be much easier with him on the team to persuade a President Bush to name someone like Steve Forbes to be Treasury Secretary. This would be necessary to force badly needed reforms of the IMF and World Bank.
By the way, the Laffer Curve was first drawn by Laffer to demonstrate to Dick Cheney, then deputy White House chief of staff to Rumsfeld, in December 1974, that tax rates could be lowered without loss of revenue. I was sitting at the table at the Two Continents Restaurant with Laffer and Cheney, saw the Curve sketched on a cocktail napkin, realized its importance, and subsequently named it the "Laffer Curve." At the time, the message got through to Cheney at least to the point he and Rumsfeld persuaded President Ford to drop his push for a tax increase and switch to a tax cut, albeit one poorly designed by the Treasury. It was actually a "tax refund," with no supply-side effects.
With Cheney in the White House, Bush could not be manipulated by one faction of the party or another and there would be a balance in the cabinet. For the last year, I had worried that the advisors he had chosen on economic policy and national security were for all practical purposes the same that controlled the Dole campaign in 1996. Cheney understands internal checks and balances, which means with Cheney in the transition, there would be an unusual openness in a GWB administration, which is what this move seems to be all about. With a military hard-liner on the ticket, Bush would still be favored to win, but would have a harder time bringing in a GOP Congress. With Cheney, I think the electorate would be a bit more comfortable with the idea of giving the GOP the White House and the Congress.
A footnote: My wife Patricia, a Reagan Democrat, said yesterday she would vote for Ralph Nader when Friday she heard McCain indicate he would go on the ticket if asked. This morning, she saw the report on Cheney and immediately said that this ticket would get her vote. Under no circumstances would she vote for Gore.