How do we spin Dick Cheney?
A pro-Bush interpretation says the choice of Cheney sends a signal of interesting self-confidence. Cheney is the choice of a candidate focused not on running for president but on governing after he wins. Cheney serves no ideological or geographic function on the ticket. But in the basic constitutional way, he is an ideal vice president a manifestly able man qualified to be interim president should something happen to President George W. Bush.
An anti-Bush interpretation says the choice is too safe, and may even emanate from the candidate's father Dad sending along his old vizier to keep the kid out of trouble.
Yet Cheney is also a connection to the past, to Bush the Father's administration. The choice means to suggest a reassuring continuity that was interrupted for eight years by the (it is to be inferred) adolescent regime of Bill Clinton. Prince W., running with one of his father's old chamberlains, gambles on the attraction of the logic of restoration the reassertion of a disrupted order.
On the whole, I think Cheney is a smart choice for Bush.
Too dull? A virtue, I'd say. See maturity, above. Cheney does have the disadvantage of not being John McCain. On the other hand, he has the virtue of not being John McCain.
Cheney carries no cumbersome baggage. He does not distract attention from the top of the ticket but rather augments it solidly. He keeps the Republican conservatives happy without offending the moderates. He does raise the question of whether a man a heartbeat away from the presidency should be expected to have an entirely reliable heart. Cheney has had three infarctions. But they were a long time ago.
One of the curious charms of Cheney is that he is not, as vice presidential choices sometimes are, a question mark. George W.'s father in 1988 gambled on what he hoped would be an attractive unknown, Dan Quayle.
A little too much is made of running mate choices anyway. The best thing about Dick Cheney is that he puts the vice presidency into perspective by being neither intriguing nor upsetting. You don't want your spare tire to be too fascinating. And you don't want him to be in business for himself.