Campaigning in the president's home state, George W. Bush on Friday praised the integrity of his GOP running mate as he took a jab at President Clinton's scandal-filled White House years.
"This man is a good man. He's a solid man. He's a man who understands what the definition of 'is' is," Bush said of Dick Cheney, referring to Mr. Clinton's tortured explanation of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
At the start of a jaunt through six states President Clinton won in 1996, Bush heaped praise on Cheney, the target of a Democratic assault over his conservative voting record while a member of Congress.
"Not only is he going to be a great partner on the campaign trail, this man is going to be a fabulous vice president of the United States," Bush told a rally at a high school in Arkansas.
To shouts of "No more Slick Willie!" from the audience, Cheney said, "We're embarking on a great crusade to restore dignity and integrity to Washington."
Upon arriving in Arkansas, Bush said "we're going to states that Republicans haven't won in a while."
Bush said the bus trip that began Friday in Arkansas and will continue on to Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania would pave the way to "an uplifting convention."
Mr. Clinton won those states in 1992 and 1996. George Bush won all but West Virginia in 1988.
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes added that the tour indicates, "We are not ceding any territory. We're going after every vote."
On Thursday, Cheney responded to Demcratic attacks on his conservative voting record in the House. He told CBS News' The Early Show that he remains "generally proud" of his votes in the 80's - and considers them appropriate to the era of Cold War and budget deficits. "It was a different era," he explained.
"I think you've got to look at the decisions based upon the time at which they occurred," Cheney explained. "I'm happy to talk about basic fundamental principles. I think those have been generally consistent over time. And I don't have any problem defending that."
"I was widely supported by moderates as well as conservatives and I was able to work with all elements of the party and with Democrats," he said.
But it's not the former Defense Secretary's principles that the campaign is forced to defend - it's the votes themselves.
Congressman Cheney consistently voted against abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment and tougher gun control - even of so-called "cop killer" armor-piercing bullets or plastic guns that escape metal detectors. Cheney opposed funding for the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts as well as economic sanctions on South Africa - even a resolution urging the release of Nelson Mandela. And he voted against Head Start, a program Bush now praises.
"I'm sure if I were to go back and look at individual votes, there are some I could find that might tweak and do a bit differently," Cheney told The Early Show.
On South Africa, Cheney said he opposed economic sanctions over apartheid for practical reasons.
"I consistently opposed the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions," he said. "I don't believe (they) work."
Democrats are making Cheney's record an issue as Al Gore ponders his own VP pick. On Wednesday, Gore attended a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference in Chicago, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson blasted Cheney's "extreme views."
"According to Business Week, the record of Dick Cheney rivals that of Jesse Helms," said Jackson, referring to the conservative North Carolina senator.
The civil rights leader added Cheney's selection proves Bush will steer his party to the far right, leaving minorities and other groups behind.
"Jesus warned us to be aware of wolves in sheep's clothing," said Jackson.