Lynne Cheney: Accustomed to the Crossfire

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Q. What will be your focus if you husband is elected?

A. I will work on education reform, as I have for the last five years. I'll probably also encourage history teaching in the schools. What I have focused on for the last five years is teaching reading according to what research shows to be effective. I've spent a lot of time visiting schools where this is being done with great success. Some schools in affluent communities: I was just at the Calvert School in Baltimore a few weeks ago, which is a private school that has children who come from wealthy families. And I have also been to Harvest Elementary School in Minneapolis and Westley Elementary School in Houston, which are schools in poorer neighborhoods where the same kind of research-based instruction is having a great impact on kids' learning, and they are great success stories. One of the things I've been impressed by in Texas that Governor Bush has spoken out very strongly and very forcefully on is the need to put into the schools the most effective methods of instruction.

Q. Would you work in government, have a job?

A. I don't know. I'm writing a book right now and would like to finish that. The topic is why there is such resistance to research-based methods of teaching. It's a kind of academic tome about the history of ideas that has led to a resistance to teaching methods based on research.

Q. Sounds like a best-seller.

A. Yeah, right.

Q. Would you take a Cabinet job?

A. That's not my interest.

Q. Would you keep your board positions?

A. Probably not. I need to feel that through. I am on a requested leave of absence for now. There is certainly no legal prohibition, but there may be other ones. I don't know. I keep asking myself, "What would Bob Dole do?"

Q. You are known for your strong viewpoints. Do you plan to speak out on the campaign?

A. Everybody asking that question seems to have a different impression of me than I do. I always think I'm just talking good common sense, and I certainly will continue to do that out on the campaign trail.

Q. They haven't said they will muzzle you?

A. This isn't that kind of campaign. I've only been on this campaign for two or three days, but it is really interesting how well everyone gets along. No one is telling anyone what to do. It's a bunch of self-starters, all of whom admire George Bush and are trying to do what they can to elect him. It's not the kind of campaign where they say, "Gosh, could you muzzle your wife, Dick?"

Q. Have you ever said anything you regret or would like to take back?

A. Well, Ann, if you have some examples, maybe I will. I can not call up one right now, but as soon as I say that, you will probably come up with one.

Q. Well, would a compassionate conservative call Hillary schizophrenic or guilty of hypocrisy?

A. Well, I don't think I ever said exactly that. Schizophrenia?

Q. You said she had a "case of schizophrenia."

A. Hmph. Where was that? I don't remember saying that.

Q. "Crossfire."

A. I have to know the context. Perhaps in the context, whatever I said was justified.

Q. You said, "Hillary has a case of schizophrenia. She puts on her nice pink dress and nice pearls and goes into the East Room and talks about babies and children... and then she goes out and tells people how to live their lives."

A. Well, those two things do seem a bit dichotomous.

Q. Do you like Mrs. Clinton? Do you have strong feelings about her?

A. I don't know her. But I think it's time for a new administration, let me put it that way.

Q. During your tenure at the National Endowment for the Humanities, did the attacks from the left hurt you personally?

A. They surprised me a lot at first. I can remember making a perfectly sensible suggestion that we should try to have lay persons on some of our panels that were rendering judgments about which applications should get grants. It was a meeting at a hotel in Washington attended by many scholarly people, and there was a man at this meeting named Stanley Katz, who was president of the ACLU, and he called my suggestion that "the most pernicious idea he had ever heard," and to me it was just common sense. That was a warning about what my tenure at the endowment was likely to turn out to be as long as I was not seen to be in the pocket of the academic world.

Q. You had some victories too, like the Ken Burns series [on the Civil War].

A. Oh, absolutely. I am just reading a book now called "The Chief" about William Randolph Hearst by [she forgets, but it's David Nasaw] a professor at NYU. It says on the cover that he had an NEH fellowship, so that's a good thing the endowment has done.

Q. Is there any issue on which you are not conservative?

A.See, Ann, there you go again.

Q. You're the one who introduced yourself "From the right, I'm Lynne Cheney."

A. Right, but that was a different job I was doing. When I was at the endowment, my main interest was in preserving the integrity of scholarship. When I was there, we were at the apogee of the time when people were rejecting the notion that scholarship should be objective or balanced. That seemed to me to present lots and lots of problems to a government agency funding scholarship. Because once you reject the notion that scholarship shouldn't be objective or strive for balance, then what you are funding are things that have a viewpoint. And what's the government doing in the business funding things that are trying to promote a particular agenda? So I don't think of that as a conservative stance but a defense of good scholarship.

Q. Which Bush are you closest to?

A. I guess I knew the governor better than Laura just because I was working on the education team for more than a year now, but in the last couple of days I have gotten to know Laura Bush and I am extraordinarily fond of her and think she is a really well-centered person and a pleasure to be around.

Q. What are you proudest of in your tenure at the endowment?

A. The Ken Burns series on the Civil War. It was a high point and illustrates the approach to scholarly undertaking that I was bent on defending. It's not a polemic of any kind and it doesn't promote an agenda. It shows the worst part of what we have done to ourselves as Americans and the best part, the loving spirit of people involved in the Civil War.

Q. Would you tell me the ages and occupations of your kids?

A. I will tell you that I have two daughters and three granddaughters and I don't think I need to go farther than that...

Q. I understand they are Mary and Elizabeth, but we don't know much about them.

A. Well, they are not running. I think the interest there has been in my children in the last couple of days really puts me in a context where I will just say I love them. They are the best young women you would ever meet. They are bright and funny and decent and hard-working. And that's about enough.

Q. The New York Times said... that your daughter Elizabeth's return address was on material sent to other candidates. Was she involved in the vetting process?

A. I think you should probably talk to the other half of the Cheney family on anything that has to do with the selection of the vice president.

Q. Your daughter Mary is openly gay. Do you have any advice for parents whose children are struggling with coming out?

A. I think it is huge mistake for me to talk about the personal lives of my children in any way at all. I wouldn't want my kids talking about my personal life to you, and I'm not going to talk about their personal lives to you.

Q. Will your daughters campaign with you?

A. I'm sure they will.

Q. Both of them?

A. Yup. I'm sure.