KENNEWICK - As the Democratic National Convention was preparing to open its nearly week long convention of naming a candidate to unseat President George W. Bush, in Boston, Vice President Dick Cheney was in the Tri-Cities Monday afternoon stumping for Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.
Cheney, the man who made many of the early crucial decisions in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, was the featured attraction at a $250 per plate luncheon at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.
The vice president, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne, outlined why the Republican party would best be suited to lead the nation for the next four years while mixing in a unique political sense of humor.
The vice president made a strong point of how important the Pacific Northwest will be in this year's election. The Bush-Cheney ticket beat the Al Gore campaign in 28 of Washington state's 39 counties. Bush-Cheney easily won heavily Republican led Benton and Yakima counties, collecting more than 75,000 votes in the two counties. Bush-Cheney also handily won Spokane County in Eastern Washington, picking up 81,000 votes. But Gore took Washington state with 1.12 million votes compared to the Bush ticket, which garnered just over 1 million votes.
Cheney, 63, grew up in Wyoming, where he met his wife. She recounted for the capacity audience, estimated in the neighborhood of 450 people, how she first came across the future politician at the age of 14 when he had an after-school janitors job.
"I didn't pay much attention to him at first," Mrs. Cheney said, which drew an uproar of laughter from the audience.
Mrs. Cheney talked about the growth of her husband into the politician he is today.
Vice President Cheney's political career began in the late 1960s when he served under President Richard Nixon. He later served as the deputy assistant and chief of staff under President Gerald Ford.
In 1977, Cheney was elected congressman for Wyoming, being re-elected five times.
From March 1989 to January 1993, Cheney served as the Secretary of Defense, leading military campaigns in Desert Storm and Operation Just Cause in Panama.
But his wife was most proud of the efforts of her husband on one of the most prolific days in American history. Lynne, who was in the emergency bunker with the vice president on Sept. 11, told the audience of how her husband rose to the occasion when the country was under attack by terrorists.
"I saw how totally committed he was to our President and this nation," she said.
Before turning the spotlight over to her husband, Mrs. Cheney encouraged those in attendance to keep the same Republican party in the White House this fall.
"He (President Bush) has been a magnificent leader the past three-and-a-half years," she said. "And if you permit me to say so, the vice president is no slouch, either."
"It is great to come back to the state of Washington," the Vice President said in taking the podium. "The President and I are grateful for our supporters in Washington. This year, Washington is going to be part of the nation-wide victory."
The Vice President recounted for the audience he had been to the Tri-Cities before entering politics. Cheney said 50 years ago this summer he can remember coming to a baseball tournament in Richland as a youngster.
Cheney carried an upbeat mood as he talked about the upcoming battles with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards.
Cheney said he contacted Edwards after it was announced he would be on the Democratic ticket and had a friendly conversation. The vice president pointed out to the audience that many say Edwards was picked for his good looks and charm.
"How do you think I got this job?" joked Cheney.
Cheney then turned his attention to Rossi, who is the forerunner for the governor's mansion in Washington.
"Dino Rossi knows exactly what people need in the state of Washington," said Cheney. "We are here today to make absolutely sure Dino Rossi is the next governor of Washington."
Cheney praised Rossi for the common sense approach he feels the gubernatorial candidate will bring to the governor's mansion, which hasn't been filled by a Republican for the past two decades. Cheney said he feels Rossi has solid direction in bringing new jobs to Washington, improving health care and addressing other issues concerning residents.
"Dino's campaign is based on strong convictions," said Cheney. "Dino Rossi is an outstanding candidate. He is going to be a great governor."
The Vice President then turned his attention to some of the issues facing the Bush-Cheney campaign. Cheney said the country is facing a great threat from abroad, comparing the terrorist network that led the Sept. 11 attacks to that of the enemy axis during World War II.
"What this enemy wants is to do away with democracy," said Cheney. "This is not an enemy you can reason with."
Cheney said it is important to keep Bush in office because he knows the decisions that will have to be made to keep the country safe.
The Vice President then fielded some questions from the audience. One audience member asked how safety has improved in the country since Sept. 11. Cheney said he is in the process of reading the entire Sept. 11 committee report, but said the President is anxious to move quickly on those recommendations. Cheney gave as one example of how safety has improved is the meetings between the FBI and CIA that take place five days per week at 8:30 a.m. with President Bush. Cheney said the communication between those two organizations has improved greatly. Cheney said before, the two agencies never communicated because it wasn't the desire of the government to have the CIA involved in domestic matters.
The Vice President also fielded a question on his health. When the president first took office, Cheney suffered a series of heart problems. Cheney just recently completed his annual health examine.
"They watch me very carefully," said Cheney. "They just certified me for another 30,000 miles."
One audience member had a question on what Republicans can do to ensure Bush-Cheney gets re-elected.
"It is important for people to understand the significance of the decisions we are going to make," said Cheney.
Cheney said it is important to get the word out to people to vote.
"It is really no time for anyone who cares about the country to sit out," said Cheney.
Cheney encouraged people to vote, become involved, because the decision made this fall will affect history for years to come.
"With your help Nov. 2 is going to be a great Republican day in Washington state and across the nation," said the Vice President.