Looking for No. 2

The veep must contribute both to winning and governing

Issue: "The new slave trade," March 25, 2000

Now that George W. Bush has the Republican nomination wrapped up, our senior staff-and subscribers who have written in-agree that it's time for me to get back to writing about politics in WORLD.

(Given the many fine, conservative candidates running for the GOP nomination, and given my very minor Bush advising role last year, I didn't want readers to think that we'd be unfair to their favorite candidates because of my involvement, so I've stayed away from our coverage for the past six months.)

Our managing editor Nick Eicher will continue to direct campaign coverage, but I'll write columns about political topics. After all, in a Bush-Gore battle Christian conservatives will clearly favor the Bush position on abortion and many other issues. This doesn't mean, however, that we will endorse Gov. Bush or refrain from criticizing him and proposing things he may not like. How do we convince readers of our independence? Let me start right now by being the first kid on the block to propose a less-known name for the Republican vice presidential nomination.

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Here are my considerations: The veep candidate should be philosophically consistent and personally compatible with the head of the ticket. He should have shown that he can be a second banana, and that he has the ability to handle the top job should a macabre scenario emerge. But, in an election expected to be close, he should also help the ticket get elected. Voters generally decide on the basis of the presidential candidates, but the right veep candidate can help win a crucial state or a crucial voting bloc, and can also provide expertise in an area where the candidate may be perceived as weak.

None of the well-known veep possibilities satisfies the bill in every respect. George W. Bush and John McCain are far apart in personality and on key issues. Colin Powell has a great presence but has come down on the wrong side of the leading moral issue of our time, abortion. Tom Ridge, the governor of a crucial state, Pennsylvania, is Catholic, and that's politically useful given the recent campaign ugliness. But since he also has gone left on abortion, that choice could alienate many of the Republican voters who saved the nomination for Mr. Bush.

What about a bright, articulate, and photogenic veep candidate who's a devout pro-life Catholic from the most crucial electoral state, and also has foreign-policy expertise? It's not too good to be true: Look at Chris Cox, a member of Congress from California since 1989, and now chairman of the House Policy Committee (which makes him the fifth-ranking Republican congressman). Born in 1952, he graduated from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School simultaneously, with honors, and was a member of President Reagan's staff from 1986 to 1988. He and his wife Rebecca have three children.

Mr. Cox in Congress has consistently fought for lower taxes and limited government. He led the fight for a strategic missile defense, worked hard to assist countries that were members of the Soviet Empire in their transition to democracy and free markets, and pushed for a China policy that rewards governmental respect for freedom and democracy. If you have heard of him at all, it's probably because in 1998 and 1999 Mr. Cox was chairman of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, which investigated China's technological thievery. That puts him in a great position to beat Al Gore like a drum concerning what may be the current administration's highest crime and misdemeanor.

One potential knock on Mr. Cox is that he is only a congressman and thus not known in most of the state whose electoral votes he could help to take. But his selection would show Californians that the GOP wants to fight for the Golden State, and Mr. Cox could appeal both to traditional conservatives and-with his authorship of the Internet Tax Freedom Act-to high-tech libertarians as well. Personal qualities also are vital: He's known as a person who thinks before he speaks, doesn't lose his cool, and keeps his word.

I have not talked about Chris Cox with any Bush folks, and it may be that a Cox candidacy is a non-starter. If so, either Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania or Rep. John Kasich of Ohio would be a sensible nominee from a big battleground state. Mr. Cox or one of these two for veep? Don't bet the farm. But George W. Bush and Karl Rove, his key adviser, are very savvy, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them going beyond the usual suspects.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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