“Nevuh Go Against Da Family”

Last week, it was John Edwards’ moment in the newsweekly sun. This week, the subject is the guy who hopes to keep his current mailing address: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Newsweek reporters Tamara Lipper and Evan Thomas write that the “insular and prickly” Cheney family “can be dangerous to cross and easy to disappoint.” They expect loyalty from those invited into their inner circle. “The connotation is not quite the Sopranos, but it’s not about baking cookies, either.”

“Cheney is routinely portrayed as untouchable, as remote as that Undisclosed Location” where he routinely lurks, writes the Newsweek team. “To some degree, this is a caricature. Cheney is actually a warm grandfather and is well liked by the staffers who appreciate his confidence and seriousness about their work. Still, a Bush campaign official concedes, ‘We didn’t care enough about his image.’”

The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch has spent a lot of time with John Kerry, and this week he empties his notebooks, concluding that the presumptive Democratic nominee “is still very much a work in progress.” Gourevitch probes deeply into Kerry’s background and what shaped his views on the world, and gives the candidate solid marks for his foreign-policy credentials. However, he writes, Kerry “is also uneven, alternating between intensely focused discipline and lucidity and phases of vagueness, when he goes into a sort of battery-saver mode.”

The juiciest tidbit Gourevitch offers up is the description of Kerry by his Senate colleague and friend, Democrat Joseph Biden. “He talks Senate-speak, which is confusing,” Biden tells Gourevitch. “My plea to John is: ‘John, I don’t want to hear you explain another f—-ing thing. Be declarative.’” (Bleep added.)

This week in The Nation, Kevin Phillips lays out his game plan for a Democratic victory in November. “All the Democrats need to do is to peel away some of the Republican ‘unbase’ — the most wobbly members of the GOP coalition,” writes Phillips.

“This, in essence, is the 20-25 percent of the party electorate that has been won at various points by three national anti-Bush primary and general election candidates with Republican origins: Ross Perot (2002), John McCain (2000) and, in a lesser vein, Patrick Buchanan (1992).”

While the Kerry campaign has earned a smattering of support from “fat-cat Republicans disenchanted with Bush,” Phillips proposes that the Democrats target “the ordinary Republicans who rejected at least one generation of Bushes to back Perot or McCain. These voters — not a few thousand elites but millions of the rank and file — are concentrated in the middle-class precincts of swing states like Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and the Pacific Coast.”

And speaking of John McCain, who has played a beneath-the-radar role in the campaign to date, Time’s Douglas Waller does a Q&A with the “maverick most wanted.” Some excerpts:

Waller: “Should Dick Cheney remain on the G.O.P ticket?”

McCain: “Absolutely. He and the president have a very important relationship, which will endure. There’s always talk about the importance of who the running mate is, but it’s been since Lyndon Johnson that a vice-presidential candidate has truly swung an election.”

Waller: “Ron Reagan is speaking at the Democratic Convention. Are you jealous?”

McCain: “Since I’m in both candidates’ commercials, I was hoping I could speak at both conventions. [Laughs.]”

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.