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Richard B. Cheney

Richard B. Cheney

Loyal service under four Republican presidents and a decade of leadership in Congress brought Richard B. Cheney (born 1941) to the inner circle in President George Bush's cabinet as secretary of defense. Assuming the post in March 1989, he faced Panamanian and Iraqi crises as well as an altered relationship with a disintegrating Soviet Union.

After weeks of contentious testimony, President George Bush suffered the first major defeat of his presidency when former Senator John Tower of Texas, his original choice for secretary of defense, was rejected by the full Senate. A day later, on March 10, 1989, the president nominated Representative Richard Bruce Cheney of Wyoming to the post. In a week the Senate confirmed him unanimously.

The 48-year-old legislator came to the office strictly through the political route, but both sides of the Senate aisle agreed that he brought to it an agreeable style, an amiable outlook on life, and a near flawless gift for dealing with people. A dedicated Republican, he left the 101st Congress as its newly-minted minority whip, a position second only to that of minority leader.

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 30, 1941, "Dick" Cheney was raised in Casper, Wyoming, by his parents, Richard H., a Department of Agriculture employee, and Marjorie L. Dickey. After a stellar secondary school career, he floundered at Yale, leaving in his sophomore year to return home, where he worked for the next two years before returning to college. Beginning again at the University of Wyoming in 1963, he quickly won his B.A. in political science in 1965 and one year later was granted the M.A. in the same discipline.

The Road to Washington Through Wyoming

While at Wyoming he undertook several internships, one with the state legislature and another in the governor's office. These whetted his appetite for government service and led him to apply for a coveted fellowship which brought him to the Washington office of one of the House's most highly respected members, William A. Steiger of Wisconsin.

The assignment drew him to the capital in 1968, a year of turmoil marking the end of eight years of Democratic control of both White House and Congress. While some careers were eclipsing, Cheney's was just beginning to rise. The Nixon administration, hungry for youthful blood, put him to work as special assistant to Donald Rumsfeld, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Cheney and Rumsfeld worked well together, the latter taking Cheney with him as deputy when he became White House counsel and as assistant director of operations when Rumsfeld became director of the Cost of Living Council. These positions, which Cheney held from May 1969 to March 1973, gave him an enviable education in government from the inside.

But Watergate Washington in 1973 was no place for a non-lawyer in his early thirties, particularly one with limited private employment experience. He took the vice presidency of an investment advisory group named Bradley, Woods and Company. Agnew's resignation in 1973 and Nixon's departure the following summer thus passed him harmlessly by and in fact opened new horizons.

Joining the Ford Administration

In August 1974 the call came to join Donald Rumsfeld on President Gerald Ford's transition staff. Cheney began life in the new administration at a considerably higher level than he had left the old. He was to serve as deputy assistant to the president, seconding yet again his close associate, Rumsfeld.

In the heady air of the White House, where absurdity is often called reality, Cheney remained himself: loyal, good-natured, pragmatically conservative, extremely civil, and extraordinarily hard-working. These traits brought him to the post of assistant to the president and chief of staff when Rumsfeld became Ford's choice to head the Department of Defense.

Cheney served the president from November 1975 until the end of his administration in January 1977. In the execution of his duties, he cultivated an old-fashioned "passion for anonymity" that would have done justice to many in the eras of Franklin Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

As chief of staff he was privy to the issues confronting Ford those days and had a direct role in advisement on political matters as well as responsibilities for scheduling the president and managing the White House staff. Once more, this was an education no graduate school could impart.

Return to Wyoming, Then a Return to Washington

Ford's defeat by Jimmy Carter sent Cheney back to Wyoming and private employment. But the lure of Washington was too great, and in 1978 he entered the Republican primary, winning it despite being stricken by a coronary attack in the midst of his campaign. Defeating his Democratic opponent in November, he entered the 96th Congress as his state's solitary member of the House of Representatives.

During the next decade of his life, from January 1979 until March 1989, Congressman Cheney consistently defined himself as a compassionate conservative. He made friends easily in both parties, assuming a leadership position early in his career. Re-election came easy to him, and he captured Wyoming's seat five times. Well-liked by his party, he was elected chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee in his second term, an unprecedented feat.

Cheney's political career as a congressman was benefitted greatly by the return of the Republicans to the White House in 1981. In domestic matters he joined right-of-center Republicans on issues such as abortion. In defense policy, he enthusiastically endorsed Carter, then Reagan, defense build up, including the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or Star Wars). And in foreign policy he supported Reagan's stands on Nicaragua and Afghanistan. Nor did he neglect Wyoming, espousing popular positions on environmental issues while supporting reasonable use of the state's mineral and forestry resources. For example, Cheney once refused the requests of other congressmen who only wanted to "borrow" some of Wyoming's share of Colorado River water. They would give it back, they promised, and were even willing to put it in writing, after the water shortage eased. "No way," said Cheney. "Once they get it we'll never get it back. That's how things work."

His standing in Congress made him a natural choice for service on the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Deals with Iran. Elected as the ranking Republican, and therefore co-chair, he disagreed strongly with the majority report, defending the Reagan administration on the Iran-Contra episode without whitewashing it.

Secretary of Defense

His ten years of service in the House made him a widely respected national figure. The combination of executive-legislative experience gave him an uncommon perspective and compensated for some of the shortcomings which might have impeded his confirmation as defense secretary. Lack of personal military service and little experience in dealing with the Pentagon were built-in objections to his suitability. But these were not seriously entertained, partly because of the circumstances of the Tower rejection but most probably and principally because of the character and nature of Cheney himself. He was up to the job, even if his resume might not trumpet the fact.

He came to the position with a track record of enthusiasm for weapons systems but at a time of severe retrenchment made imperative by the deficit crisis at home and possible by the disintegration of the Soviet Union as a world-class antagonist. He early established control over the massive military-civilian bureaucracy, reprimanding one general and removing another for remarks he deemed beyond their authority. It was clear that civilian control of the military as a principle would not suffer under his tenure.

His capacity for crisis management was demonstrated in the invasion of Panama, a foreign policy-military operation that proceeded successfully to the seizure of Panama's free-wheeling chief of state, General Manual Noriega. But Secretary Cheney's most important test came in August 1990 with the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Responding to President Bush's call for American troop involvement in the defense of Saudi Arabia, Secretary Cheney undertook a massive movement of material and personnel to the Persian Gulf, where, in response to United Nations Security Council resolutions, they joined other nations from all quarters in pursuing the restoration of the Kuwait monarchy and the protection of America's interests. On January 16, 1991 these resources were employed in a violent air war against Iraq. This was followed by a ground attack launched February 23 that destroyed the bulk of Iraq's military forces in 100 hours. Cheney's key role, along with Chief of Staff Colin Powell, made both men popular heroes. With the formal surrender of Iraq, Cheney turned to the task of reducing the strength of the U.S. military, closing surplus military bases, and other cost-cutting devices. His solid reputation and stand-out professionalism helped him carry out these largely unpopular measures.

During his tenure, President Bush, Secretary of State James Baker, and Cheney shaped their party's national security policy. The Bush team reduced the military budget, shrank the size of U.S. military forces, and engaged in a flurry of negotiations that ultimately produced the START I and START II treaties, the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement, and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Bush and Baker led the way to a doubling of the number of U.N. peacekeeping operations across the globe. They all grappled with the issue of disarmament. Cheney's statement, reflecting the Bush administration's course, attested to no new or emerging policy on arms and security: "Arms for America's friends and arms control for its potential foes."

A Voice in Government

Cheney remained Secretary of Defense until 1994, through the political changing of the guard which resulted in the election of Democrat Bill Clinton as president. After leaving his official duties as Secretary of Defense, Cheney remained a voice in government affairs, and frequently commented on Clinton administration choices. In January 1994, Cheney said that the United States should avoid "getting consumed with the problems in Moscow" and instead concentrate on building strong relationships with all the republics of the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine. In September 1994, he described the U.S. attempts to withdraw quickly from Haiti as "serious misjudgement" while pointing to the difficulties faced while attempting to leave Somalia. With tight budget times and downsizing at the Pentagon under way under the Clinton administration, Cheney was one of the eight civilian Secretaries of Defense invited to give "advice to the re-elected commander in chief" at a special event in Atlanta. In April 1997, he sent a letter to the Senate to protest the imminent ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Cheney was regarded as corporate America's choice for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, although he removed his name from consideration almost two years before the election. His name was published as one of 15 possible vice presidential candidates as selected by Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

His wife, Lynne (Vincent) Cheney, whom he married in 1964, was a distinguished author and public figure and chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has a doctorate in English, is a former editor of Washingtonian magazine and taught at several colleges and universities. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.

Further Reading

Some biographical data on Cheney's governmental career can be gleaned from accounts of his White House contemporaries and from those of journalists. Gerald Ford's account, A Time To Heal (1979), and John Osborne's White House Watch: The Ford Years (1977), fit those categories. For Cheney's part in the Iran-Contra investigation, see Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1987, Vol. LXIII. His views on congressional responsibilities over national security, delivered at the end of his first year at the Department of Defense, can be found in "Legislative-Executive Relations in National Security," Vital Speeches (March 15, 1990). □

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Cheney, Dick

Dick Cheney

Born: January 30, 1941
Lincoln, Nebraska

American vice president, secretary of defense, congressman, and government official

Dick Cheney is the forty-sixth vice president of the United States, serving under President George W. Bush (1946). He helped plan the war on terrorism that began after the country was attacked in 2001. He also served as secretary of defense under President George Bush (1924) and spent almost his entire career working for the federal government.

The young man

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 30, 1941, Richard B. Cheney was raised in Casper, Wyoming, by his parents, Richard H. Cheney, a Department of Agriculture employee, and Marjorie L. Dickey. He attended Yale University but left in his second year to return home, where he worked for the next two years. Resuming his studies at the University of Wyoming in 1963, he earned his bachelor's degree in political science in 1965 and his master's degree one year later. In 1964 he married Lynne Vincent, and the couple had two daughters.

The road to Washington, D.C.

Cheney went to work in the Wyoming state legislature and for Governor Warren Knowles (19081993) of Madison, Wisconsin, before landing a position in Washington on the staff of Congressman William Steiger (1938 1978) of Wisconsin. He went on to work as special assistant to Donald Rumsfeld (1932), director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, under President Richard Nixon (19131994).

After Cheney left Washington for a little over a year to work for an investment company, in August 1974 the call came to join Rumsfeld on the staff of President Gerald Ford (1913). Cheney served as deputy assistant to the president. He remained loyal, good-natured, hardworking, and civil. He preferred just to work and did not try to attract attention to himself. These traits brought him to the post of assistant to the president and chief of staff when Rumsfeld became Ford's choice to head the Department of Defense.

Back to Wyoming, and back to Washington

Ford's loss to Jimmy Carter (1924) in the 1976 presidential election sent Cheney back to Wyoming and private employment. But the lure of Washington was too great, and in 1978 he ran for Congress as a Republican, winning the election despite suffering a heart attack during his campaign.

From January 1979 until March 1989, Congressman Cheney sided with conservatives on most issues. For example, he was in favor of spending more money on weapons to defend the country, and he opposed abortion (the purposeful termination of a pregnancy).

His dedication in Congress made him a natural choice to serve on the House committee that was set up to investigate charges that President Ronald Reagan (1911) had traded weapons to Iran in return for the release of fifty-two Americans who had been taken prisoner there. Cheney defended the Reagan administration's actions.

Secretary of defense

In 1989 President George Bush (1924) chose Cheney for the job of secretary of defense. Cheney won praise for the invasion of Panama and for the removal of that country's chief of state, General Manuel Noriega (1938), who had been charged with bringing drugs into the United States. But Secretary Cheney's most important test came in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. On January 16, 1991, the United States began a violent air war against Iraq. This was followed by a ground attack launched a month later that destroyed most of Iraq's military forces in 100 hours. The war made Cheney and Chief of Staff Colin Powell (1937) popular heroes.

After the war with Iraq, Cheney turned to the task of reducing the strength of the U.S. military, closing some military bases and trying to find other ways to cut costs. He and the Bush team reduced the military budget, shrank the size of U.S. military forces, and signed a number of treaties in an effort to maintain peace around the world.

Called back to serve

After Bush lost his bid for reelection to Bill Clinton (1946), Cheney returned to the business world as chief executive at the Halliburton Company, an oil drilling and construction services company. He remained a voice in government affairs, often commenting on Clinton administration choices, and he was mentioned by many as a possible candidate for vice president.

In 2000, Texas governor George W. Bush (1946) asked Cheney to join his presidential campaign as his vice presidential candidate. After winning the election, Bush and Cheney were sworn in on January 20, 2001. Cheney went about his business quietly as always, leading many who were not familiar with his behind-the-scenes style to wonder if his health was a problem after having suffered four heart attacks.

However, after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Cheney showed how important he was to the administration. He advised the president to create the Office of Homeland Security and played a major role in planning and monitoring the country's war on terrorism. He also met with congressional leaders and foreign ministers to seek their support for the fight. Cheney's experience gained during the war against Iraq ten years earlier proved of great value to both President Bush and the country as a whole.

For More Information

Andrews, Elaine K. Dick Cheney: A Life in Public Service. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2001.

Congressional Quarterly Almanac. 1987, vol. LXIII.

Ford, Gerald. A Time to Heal. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Osborne, John. White House Watch: The Ford Years. Washington, DC: New Republic Book Co., 1977.

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Cheney, Dick

Dick Cheney (Richard Bruce Cheney) (chē´nē, chā´–), 1941–, Vice President of the United States (2001–9), b. Lincoln, Nebr. His family moved to Casper, Wyo., when he was 13, and he attended the Univ. of Wyoming (B.A., 1965; M.A., 1966) and the Univ. of Wisconsin. A conservative Republican, he served (1970–73) in various White House posts during the Nixon administration and as President Gerald Ford's deputy assistant (1974–75) and de facto chief of staff (1975–77). Elected to the House of Representatives from Wyoming in 1978 and reelected four times, he became House minority whip in 1988. Cheney remained in Congress until 1989, when President George H. W. Bush appointed him secretary of defense, a post he held until 1993. Cheney played an important role in the strategic planning of the Persian Gulf War (1991). In 1995 he became the CEO of the Dallas-based Halliburton Company.

Five years later Cheney was picked by Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush to be his vice presidential running mate, and, despite losing the popular vote, they narrowly defeated the Gore-Lieberman ticket in the electoral college. Extremely close to President Bush, Cheney brought an unusual degree of executive branch experience to the vice presidency. These factors and his status as a Republican party elder and unlikely future presidential candidate made him one of the most influential vice presidents in more recent American history, particularly in the areas of national security, the economy and taxes, and the federal budget. Cheney became an advocate of a presidency of reinvigorated, enhanced, and minimally constrained power. Within the administration, he was a prominent advocate of invading Iraq and of the use of "enhanced interrogation" that many regarded as torture.

Bush and Cheney were reelected in 2004, this time winning a clear majority of the popular vote. In 2005, however, the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, Jr., on charges of lying to and obstructing an investigation into the leaking (2003) of a CIA officer's name was an embarrassment for the administration. (Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, revealed in 2006 that he had been responsible for the leak of the CIA officer's name that had led to the investigation; he said the act had been inadvertent.) Libby's trial (2007), which ended in his conviction, revealed information about Cheney's involvement in Libby's actions in 2003 and raised questions about whether Cheney had any involvement in obstructing the investigation. After leaving the vice presidency, Cheney became an outspoken critic of the Obama administration.

In 1964 Cheney married Lynne V. Cheney, 1941–, b. Casper, Wyo., as Lynne Ann Vincent. Noted as a conservative advocate of traditional educational standards, she headed the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993 and was co-host (1996–8) of television's Crossfire Sunday. Since 1993 she has been a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.

See his In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir (with his daughter L. Cheney, 2011); biography by S. F. Hayes (2007); J. Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (2004); C. Savage, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (2007); B. Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice-Presidency (2008); P. Baker, Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (2013); R. J. Cutler, dir., The World According to Dick Cheney (doc. film, 2013).

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Cheney, Richard

Cheney, Richard (1941– ), member of Congress, secretary of defense.Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of a federal soil conservation agent, Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming, and attended Yale and the Universities of Wyoming and Wisconsin. Appointed a congressional fellow in 1968, he served as assistant to Donald Rumsfeld in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations. In 1975–77, Cheney was President Gerald Ford's chief of staff. Then, in 1979–89, Cheney served in the House of Representatives as a staunch but pragmatic conservative Republican from Wyoming. As minority whip, he actively supported President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup and aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.

President George Bush appointed Cheney secretary of defense after the Senate rejected John Tower. Cheney had no military service, having obtained deferments during the Vietnam War, but as defense secretary (1989–93), despite his skepticism about reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Cheney followed Bush's instructions to downsize the U.S. military. A Washington insider, he challenged the Pentagon's lobbying, reformed procurement, and curtailed a number of weapons programs. But the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, on his own authority devised the plan for the post–Cold War U.S. military.

Although General Powell kept tightly in his own hands operational planning and control of the U.S. military response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Cheney helped persuade the Saudi government to accept U.S. military forces and to join the Allied Coalition that achieved successful liberation of Kuwait from control of Saddam Hussein.
[See also Arms Control and Disarmament; Defense, Department of; Persian Gulf War.]

Bibliography

Richard B. and and Lynne A. Cheney , Kings of the Hill, 1983.
Michael R. Gordon, and and Bernard F. Trainor , The General's War, 1995.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

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Cheney, Dick

Cheney, Dick ( Richard Bruce) (1941– ) US vice president (2001– ) under George W. Bush. He was White House chief of staff (1974–77) under President Gerald Ford, and served as Republican Congressman for Wyoming (1978–89). Secretary of defense (1989–93) under President George Bush, Cheney directed the invasion of Panama (1989) and the Gulf War (1991) against Iraq. As vice president, Cheney steered legislation through Congress and contributed to the war on terrorism.

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