Tuesday, September 05, 2000

Portman to help prepare Cheney

He'll play opponent in debate practice

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will assume the role of Democratic running mate Joseph Lieberman when GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney preps for debates.

        “I'm a little bit intimidated by it because Dick Cheney is so smart,” said Mr. Portman, a Terrace Park Republican with close ties to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

        Mr. Portman has known Mr. Cheney since the late 1980s, when the Cincinnatian was head of the congressional liaison office in the Bush administration and Mr. Cheney was President Bush's secretary of defense.

        The call to serve as a stand-in for Mr. Lieberman in debate preparations came from the vice presidential nominee himself, Mr. Portman said.

        “He called me at home the night Al Gore was giving his speech at the Democratic convention,” Mr. Portman said Monday. “I remember because we put the conversation on hold so we could both listen to the speech.”

        Now, the question is when and whether the debates will happen.

        Whatever schedule is agreed on, Mr. Portman expects to begin his sessions with Mr. Cheney later this week in Washington, D.C.

        “A lot of it will be informal sessions, where I take the Gore-Lieberman point of view and he makes his argument,” Mr. Portman said. “I don't think he's going to need a lot of help.”

        Mr. Portman, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has championed Social Security reform and changes in the tax code that would encourage retirement savings.


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