Cheney Defends His Record

Thursday, July 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Dick Cheney said Thursday he voted against the Equal Rights Amendment when he was in the House because he feared it would require the drafting of women into the military.

``Now I didn't think that was a very good idea,'' Cheney said on CBS' ``The Early Show.'' He said he had wanted to change ERA to state that drafting women would not be required, but that the rules under which it was being considered barred any amendment.

The Wyoming Republican, picked this week to be George W. Bush's vice presidential running mate, defended his conservative record in interviews on three network morning television programs Thursday.

On ABC's ``Good Morning America,'' he was asked why, in 1988, he was one of only four members of Congress to vote against banning plastic guns and also voted against a ban on armor-piercing ``cop-killer'' bullets.

``I was a great believer and am a great believer today in the Second Amendment, the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms, and that the solution to our gun problems really lies in enforcing existing regulations and laws that prohibit felons, for example, from owning guns, rather than imposing new requirements on law-abiding citizens,'' Cheney said.

And on NBC's ``Today,'' he denied that his vote not to impose economic sanctions against the segregationist government of South Africa meant he opposed freedom for the jailed Nelson Mandela. ``This notion that somehow I was opposed to freeing Nelson Mandela is a typical distortion by Al Gore,'' he said.

On Wednesday, Cheney returned to his roots in Casper, Wyo., campaigning for the first time with Bush. ``I am generally proud of my record in the House and the job I did representing the state of Wyoming,'' Cheney said.

But the former defense secretary also acknowledged he might have voted differently on some matters in the current healthy economy than he did in the deficit-plagued 1980s.

``I'm sure if I were to go back and look at the individual votes, I could probably find some that I might tweak and do a bit differently,'' Cheney told reporters, referring to his 1979-89 tenure in the House.

He said he voted against some new programs in the era of budget deficits because he was he was ``concerned about controlling federal spending.''

But with current projections for a $4.5 trillion surplus, ``We've got the opportunity now I think to go do some things that we could not have done 20 years ago and the governor's laid out a number of those: for example, such things as reforming the education system, improving the Medicare system, fixing Social Security.''

Democrats pounced on the remark, saying it departed from Bush's proposal to spend the surplus in other ways, chiefly on tax cuts.

``The fact is they haven't put a dime of the surplus into shoring up Medicare. That's a fact,'' Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said. ``He has ruled it out by spending the surplus on a tax cut and other spending'' in the proposal.

Replied Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer: ``The governor has not ruled out using the surplus for anything.''

Bush backed his newly installed running mate, making no apologies for their support of conservative politics.

``This is a conservative man, and so am I,'' Bush said.

``The key here is to stay focused on the future,'' Cheney said.

A week before the GOP convention is to crown Bush the party's presidential nominee, the Texas governor defended his choice of a running mate.

``This is a good man standing by my side,'' he said. ``He's going to be wonderful to campaign with and wonderful to serve with.''

Cheney said he has no apologies for his ties to the oil industry even as Democrats have taken to referring to the GOP ticket as a couple of Texas oilmen.

He is resigning as chairman and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Halliburton Corp., one of the world's largest oil services companies. Bush was involved in a series of oil drilling endeavors before turning to politics.

``I'm very proud of Halliburton. I have nothing to apologize for,'' Cheney said, noting the company had started from modest beginnings 81 years ago and now has operations in 120 countries. ``It is the quintessential American success story.''

Bush said the criticism was ``an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the Democrats have no energy policy.''