Born January 30, 1941
Dick Cheney on CNN.
Dick Cheney's work as U.S. secretary of defense under President George H. W. Bush (see entry) was a milestone in his long and distinguished political career. He helped plan and carry out Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, the two main phases of the U.S. military campaign against Iraq that became known as the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In addition, Cheney spent a great deal of time explaining the Bush administration's military and political goals to the American people throughout the conflict.
Cheney's term as secretary of defense came to an end in 1994. But seven years later he became vice president of the United States in the administration of George W. Bush (see entry), son of the former president. In this new position, Cheney helped convince the younger Bush to launch a military invasion of Iraq in 2003. This war succeeded in removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (see entry) from power.
Early interest in politics
Richard "Dick" B. Cheney was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 30, 1941. His parents were Richard H. Cheney, a worker for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Marjorie L. Dickey. Cheney spent most of his childhood in Casper, Wyoming, where he excelled in his school work. He continued his schooling at Connecticut's Yale University, one of the country's finest colleges. But he struggled with his studies and dropped out during his sophomore year. Cheney returned home to Casper, where he worked for two years before deciding to return to school. He enrolled at the nearby University of Wyoming, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1965 and a master's degree in political science in 1966.
Keenly interested in building a career in politics, Cheney worked hard to establish relationships with Wyoming lawmakers. He accepted internships with several legislators and even worked on the staff of the state governor. Cheney's performed so well in these roles that the leadership of the national Republican Party decided that he deserved a real opportunity to develop his talents. In 1968 he was appointed a special assistant to Donald Rumsfeld (see entry), who at that time was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in the administration of President Richard Nixon. Cheney spent the next few years working closely with Rumsfeld, who worked in several important positions in the Nixon administration.
In 1973 Cheney left politics to work for an investment company. But when Republican President Gerald R. Ford took office in 1974, he returned to Washington, D.C., as a special assistant to the White House. In 1975 Ford asked him to serve as chief of staff. This was an enormous honor for the thirty-four-year-old Cheney, for the chief of staff supervises the daily operations of the White House and its staff.
Cheney served as White House chief of staff from 1975 to early 1977. During this time, Cheney gained a reputation as a hard-working, loyal, intelligent, and effective counselor to the president. In January 1977 Democrat Jimmy Carter was sworn in as president, so Cheney returned to his home state of Wyoming.
Powerful member of Congress
In 1978 Cheney ran for political office for the first time. First he clinched the Republican nomination for Wyoming's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, even though he suffered a mild heart attack in the middle of the campaign. He then defeated the Democratic Party's nominee in the general election, giving him the opportunity to represent the people of Wyoming back in Washington, D.C.
Once Cheney took office, he quickly established himself as one of the most powerful and conservative members of the House. He served from 1978 to 1989, successfully defending his seat against Democratic challengers in five straight elections. During this period he emerged as a recognized leader of the national Republican Party and a strong supporter of President Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989. Health problems continued to hound him, however, and in 1988 he was forced to undergo quadruple-bypass heart surgery. The operation was a success, but Cheney has suffered four heart attacks over the years, and questions about his health have followed him throughout his career.
In 1989 Cheney received a new political challenge when President George H. W. Bush asked him to serve as secretary of defense in his new administration. As Bush's defense secretary, Cheney would be responsible for supervising all aspects of the U.S. military. Some people criticized Bush for selecting Cheney, who had never served in the military and did not have much experience dealing with the leadership of the army, air force, navy, and marines. But Bush and many other people defended the choice. They pointed out that Cheney enjoyed the respect of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and they claimed that his calm but decisive style made him ideally suited to manage the U.S. military.
Soon after Cheney's nomination was approved by the U.S. Senate, the Bush administration faced its first major international test. American officials became convinced that General Manuel Noriega, the dictator of a Central American nation called Panama, was allowing drug dealers to take shipments of drugs through Panama on their way to the United States. The Bush administration also expressed concern about Noriega's refusal to honor the results of Panamanian elections and about Panama's treatment of American soldiers stationed in the country.
By December 1989, relations between the United States and Panama had reached a crisis point. Bush ordered Cheney and other U.S. military leaders to devise a strategy to invade Panama and arrest Noriega. On December 20, 1989, this plan, called Operation Just Cause, was launched. The nighttime invasion by U.S. forces destroyed Noriega's headquarters and other important military posts. On January 3, 1990, Noriega surrendered to the United States, and he remains in the U.S. prison system.
Confrontation with Iraq
In August 1990 the Bush administration turned its attention to a region of the world known as the Middle East, where Iraq, a country with a large and powerful military, had staged a surprise invasion of neighboring Kuwait. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ordered his military forces to invade Kuwait because he believed that Iraq had a historical claim to Kuwait's territory. He also wanted to control Kuwait's oil reserves and to gain access to Kuwait's port on the Persian Gulf. The United States and many other countries expressed outrage about Iraq's attack. They demanded that Hussein remove his forces from Kuwait or face the consequences. When he refused, many of these countries sent military forces to the Persian Gulf region to join a U.S.-led coalition against Iraq. The coalition eventually grew to include five hundred thousand U.S. troops and two hundred thousand soldiers from other nations.
Many of these coalition forces were placed in Saudi Arabia, a long-time ally of the United States. The leaders of Saudi Arabia had expressed deep reservations about letting U.S. soldiers into their country. But Cheney and a small team of other American officials convinced the Saudi leaders to host the U.S. troops. Cheney pointed out that Hussein had repeatedly threatened to attack Saudi Arabia, and he stressed that the entire Middle East region would suffer if Iraq's invasion went unpunished.
Cheney played a major role in the campaign to protect Saudi Arabia, which came to be known as Operation Desert Shield. In addition, he approved the military campaign known as Operation Desert Storm, in which U.S.-led planes pounded Iraqi military positions with thousands of bombs. The bombing campaign began on January 16, 1991, and lasted for thirty-eight days. American forces then began the second phase of Desert Storm, a ground attack that destroyed most of Iraq's remaining military forces in less than five days. Iraq surrendered on February 26, 1991, and gave up all claims to Kuwait.
After helping guide the United States to victory in the Persian Gulf War, Cheney returned to his administrative duties as defense secretary. He made several major changes to the U.S. military in 1992 and 1993, the first year of Democrat Bill Clinton's presidency. For example, Cheney closed several unneeded military bases and reduced the overall size of the armed forces. But he also approved major investments in new high-technology weapons programs.
In 1994 Cheney resigned from his post as defense secretary. A few months later he was named president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Halliburton, one of the largest oil exploration and development companies in the world. He led Halliburton for the next five years, using his organizational skills and international business and political contacts to help the company reach new levels of success.
Returns to public service
In 2000 Cheney returned to the political arena once again. Texas Governor George W. Bush, a son of former President George H. W. Bush, for whom Cheney had served as secretary of defense, clinched the Republican Party's nomination for president of the United States. Governor Bush initially asked Cheney to lead a group to find a good candidate to be the vice presidential nominee for the Republican Party. But as the weeks went by, Bush decided that he wanted Cheney to take the nomination himself.
Cheney accepted Bush's offer and promptly began campaigning across the country for the Bush-Cheney presidential ticket. In November 2000 American voters went to the polls to choose between Bush-Cheney and the Democratic ticket of presidential nominee Al Gore and vice-presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman. The vote was the closest in U.S. history, and problems with the vote tally in the deciding state of Florida touched off six weeks of legal clashes to see who America's next president and vice president would be. Finally, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that paved the way for Bush and Cheney to claim victory. They took their oaths of office on January 20, 2001.
In 2002 Iraq once again became a major topic of conversation in Washington, D.C. President Bush and his advisors claimed that Saddam Hussein and his generals were holding chemical weapons and were seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, despite their promises to the United Nations that they would not do so. "Saddam Hussein is continuing his decade-old game of defiance, delay, and deception," Cheney charged in a speech to Republican leaders that was broadcast on CNN. "Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction poses a grave danger, not only to his neighbors, but also to the United States.... He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for their use against us."
In late 2002 and early 2003, the United States engaged in a heated debate with other countries over Iraq's future. The Bush administration argued that Hussein's government was dangerous and should be removed from power, but other nations claimed that Iraq did not pose an immediate threat. In March 2003 the Bush administration decided to launch a major offensive against Iraq. U.S. forces, joined by a smaller number of troops from Great Britain and other allies, seized control of Iraq after a few weeks of fighting. Since that time, the United States has been engaged in a program to help the people of Iraq rebuild their battered country and install a new government.
Cheney is married to Lynne Cheney, a conservative activist and writer whom he met in high school. They have two daughters.
Where to Learn More
Andrews, Elaine. Dick Cheney: A Life in Public Service. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2001.
Cohen, Richard E., and James Kitfield. "Cheney: Pros and Cons." National Journal, July 29, 2000.
Evans, Rowland, and Robert Novak. "Cheney for the Defense." Reader's Digest, December 1991.
Gibbs, Nancy. "Double-Edged Sword." Time, December 30, 2002.
"Richard B. Cheney." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 1998; reproduced in online Biography Resource Center, Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2003.
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.
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). □
Born: January 30, 1941
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 (1908–1993) 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 (1913–1994).
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.
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.]
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