Republican vice presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney went on the offensive last night, using his nomination-acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention to repeatedly criticize the Clinton-Gore administration on many fronts, including its education track record.
When Texas Gov. George W. Bush of Texas selected the former Wyoming congressman to be his running mate last month, Democrats rushed to criticize Mr. Cheney’s conservative voting record during the 10 years—1979 to 1989—that he served in Congress. Critics highlighted Mr. Cheney’s votes against funding for the federal Head Start program and the creation of the U.S. Department of Education, and his support of cutting federal education aid.
But on the third night of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Cheney, who served as secretary of defense when Gov. Bush’s father was in the White House, shot back. He charged that “poor and disadvantaged children [have fallen] further and further behind” under the current White House administration. “For all their sentimental talk about children, Clinton and Gore have done nothing to help children oppressed by bureaucracy, monopoly, and mediocrity,” he said.
He promised an aggressive strategy to improve education if Gov. Bush wins the presidential election in November.
“When George W. Bush is president and I am vice president, tests will be taken, results will be measured, schools will answer to parents, and no child will be left behind,” he said, echoing in that final phrase the theme of the first night of the Republican convention.
Not everyone agrees.
In an interview, Dagoberto Vega, a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, argued that Mr. Cheney was simply attempting to “moderate his rhetoric” on education, while his conservative voting record on Head Start and other education-related matters “shows how disingenuous he is on this issue.” He added: “Those comments are part of the masquerade ball that is the Republican convention.”
Mr. Cheney’s speech covered a lot of ground. He highlighted the strong character and leadership skills he sees in Gov. Bush, while attacking President Clinton and Vice President Gore. “They will make accusations, we will make proposals,” he said. “They will feed fear, we will appeal to hope.”
His criticisms of the current president and vice president and his pledge to “restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office” drew hearty applause from the party faithful gathered at the convention hall in Philadelphia. At one point, the crowd chanted, “time to go,” echoing a line from Mr. Cheney’s speech: “It is time for them to go.”
The GOP candidate also talked about military issues, taxes, the legal system, and Social Security. But education came up several times.
“George W. Bush came to the governor’s office with a clear view of what he wanted to achieve,” Mr. Cheney said. “He said he would bring higher standards to public schools, and he has. Walk into those schools today, and you will see children with better scores, classrooms with better discipline, and teachers with better pay.”
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III also referenced education in his speech to the convention last night. He called it the defining issue of the campaign and “the Republican issue for the 21st Century.”
Tonight, Gov. Bush, who arrived in Philadelphia yesterday, is scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination. He is expected to talk about education, among other issues.