Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
46th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Al Gore
Succeeded by Joe Biden
17th United States Secretary of Defense
In office
March 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Deputy Donald J. Atwood, Jr.
Preceded by Frank Carlucci
Succeeded by Les Aspin
15th United States House of Representatives Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1989 – March 20, 1989
Leader Robert H. Michel
Preceded by Trent Lott
Succeeded by Newt Gingrich
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1979 – March 20, 1989
Preceded by Teno Roncalio
Succeeded by Craig L. Thomas
7th White House Chief of Staff
In office
November 21, 1975 – January 20, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Donald Rumsfeld
Succeeded by Hamilton Jordan
Personal details
Born January 30, 1941 (1941-01-30) (age 70)
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lynne Cheney (m. 1964-present)
Children Elizabeth Cheney
Mary Cheney
Residence McLean, Virginia
Jackson, Wyoming
Alma mater Yale University
University of Wyoming (BA, MA)
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Profession Politician
Religion Methodist
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney[1] (born January 30, 1941) served as the 46th Vice President of the United States (2001–2009), under George W. Bush.

Cheney was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, but was primarily raised in Sumner, Nebraska and Casper, Wyoming.[2] He began his political career as an intern for Congressman William A. Steiger, eventually working his way into the White House during the Nixon and Ford administrations, where he served the latter as White House Chief of Staff. In 1978, Cheney was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Wyoming; he was reelected five times, eventually becoming House Minority Whip. Cheney was selected to be the Secretary of Defense during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, holding the position for the majority of Bush's term. During this time, Cheney oversaw the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, among other actions.

Out of office during the Clinton presidency, Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company from 1995 to 2000.


Early life and education

Cheney was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Marjorie Lorraine (née Dickey) and Richard Herbert Cheney. He is of predominantly English and Welsh ancestry; Cheney's 8th great-grandfather, William Cheney immigrated from England to Massachusetts in the 17th century.[3][4][5] Although not a direct descendant, he is collaterally related to Benjamin Pierce Cheney (1815–1895), the early American expressman. Cheney is a distant cousin of both Harry S. Truman and Barack Obama; the three share a common ancestor in Mareen Duvall, a Huguenot who fled from France to England in the 17th century and later settled in Maryland.[6]

He attended Calvert Elementary School[7][8] before his family moved to Casper, Wyoming,[9] where he attended Natrona County High School. His father was a soil conservation agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his mother was a softball star in the 1930s;[10] Cheney was one of three children. He attended Yale University, but by his own account had problems adjusting to the college, and flunked out twice.[11] Among the influential teachers from his days in New Haven was Professor H. Bradford Westerfield, whom Cheney repeatedly credited with having helped to shape his approach to foreign policy.[12] He later attended the University of Wyoming, where he earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in political science. He subsequently started, but did not finish, doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[13]

In November 1962, at the age of 21, Cheney was convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). He was arrested for DWI again the following year.[14] Cheney said that the arrests made him "think about where I was and where I was headed. I was headed down a bad road if I continued on that course."[15]

In 1964, he married Lynne Vincent, his high school sweetheart, whom he had met at age 14.

When Cheney became eligible for the draft, during the Vietnam War, he applied for and received five draft deferments.[16][17] In 1989, The Washington Post writer George C. Wilson interviewed Cheney as the next Secretary of Defense; when asked about his deferments, Cheney reportedly said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."[18] Cheney testified during his confirmation hearings in 1989 that he received deferments to finish a college career that lasted six years rather than four, owing to sub par academic performance and the need to work to pay for his education. Initially, he was not called up because the Selective Service System was only taking older men. When he became eligible for the draft, he applied for four deferments in sequence. He applied for his fifth exemption on January 19, 1966, when his wife was about 10 weeks pregnant. He was granted 3-A status, the "hardship" exemption, which excluded men with children or dependent parents. In January 1967, Cheney turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.[19]

Early White House appointments

White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld (left) and his assistant Cheney (right) meet with President Gerald Ford at the White House, April 1975

Cheney's political career began in 1969, as an intern for Congressman William A. Steiger during the Richard Nixon Administration. He then joined the staff of Donald Rumsfeld, who was then Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1969–70.[14] He held several positions in the years that followed: White House Staff Assistant in 1971, Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council from 1971–73, and Deputy Assistant to the president from 1974–1975. As deputy assistant, Cheney suggested several options in a memo to Rumsfeld, including use of the US Justice Department, that the Ford administration could use to limit damage from an article, published by The New York Times, in which investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reported that Navy submarines had tapped into Soviet undersea communications as part of a highly classified program.[20][21]

Cheney was Assistant to the President under Gerald Ford. When Rumsfeld was named Secretary of Defense, Cheney became White House Chief of Staff, succeeding Rumsfeld.[14] He later was campaign manager for Ford's 1976 presidential campaign.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives


In 1978, Cheney was elected to represent Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives and succeed retiring Congressman Teno Roncalio, having defeated his Democratic opponent, Bill Bailey. Cheney was reelected five times, serving until 1989.

Committee assignments

Originally declining, U.S. Congressman Barber Conable persuaded Cheney to join the moderate Republican Wednesday Group in order to move up the leadership ranks. He was elected Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee from 1981 to 1987. Cheney was the Ranking Member of the Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair.[14][23][24] He promoted Wyoming's petroleum and coal businesses as well,[25]


In 1987, he was elected Chairman of the House Republican Conference. The following year, he was elected House Minority Whip.[26][26] He served for two and a half months before he was appointed Secretary of Defense instead of former U.S. Senator John G. Tower, whose nomination had been rejected by the U.S. Senate in March 1989.[27]


Cheney meets with President Ronald Reagan, 1983

He voted against the creation of the U.S. Department of Education, citing his concern over budget deficits and expansion of the federal government, and claiming that the Department was an encroachment on states' rights.[28] He voted against funding Head Start, but reversed his position in 2000.[29]

Cheney supported Bob Michel’s (R-IL) bid to become Republican Minority Leader.[30] In April 1980, Cheney endorsed Governor Ronald Reagan for President, becoming one of Reagan's earliest supporters.[31]

In 1986, after President Ronald Reagan vetoed a bill to impose economic sanctions on South Africa for its policy of apartheid, Cheney was one of 83 Representatives to vote against overriding Reagan's veto.[32] In later years, he articulated his opposition to unilateral sanctions against many different countries, stating "they almost never work"[33] and that in that case they might have ended up hurting the people instead.[34]

In 1986, Cheney, along with 145 Republicans and 31 Democrats, voted against a non-binding Congressional resolution calling on the South African government to release Nelson Mandela from prison, after the Democrats defeated proposed amendments that would have required Mandela to renounce violence sponsored by the African National Congress (ANC) and requiring it to oust the communist faction from its leadership; the resolution was defeated. Appearing on CNN, Cheney addressed criticism for this, saying he opposed the resolution because the ANC "at the time was viewed as a terrorist organization and had a number of interests that were fundamentally inimical to the United States."[35]

The federal building in Casper, a regional center of the fossil fuel industry, is named the Dick Cheney Federal Building.[36]

Secretary of Defense

Secretary Cheney with President Bush, 1991
Secretary of Defense Cheney delivering a speech before the launch of destroyer USS Arleigh Burke

President George H. W. Bush nominated Cheney for the office of Secretary of Defense immediately after the U.S. Senate failed to confirm John Tower for that position.[37] The senate confirmed Cheney by a vote of 92 to 0[37] and he served in that office from March 1989 to January 1993. He directed the United States invasion of Panama and Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East. In 1991 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bush.[26]

Early tenure

Cheney worked closely with Pete Williams, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, from the beginning of his tenure. He focused primarily on external matters, and left most internal Pentagon management to Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald J. Atwood, Jr.[27]

Budgetary practices

Cheney's most immediate issue as Secretary of Defense was the Department of Defense budget. Cheney deemed it appropriate to cut the budget and downsize the military, following President Ronald Reagan's peacetime defense buildup at the height of the Cold War.[38] As part of the fiscal year 1990 budget, Cheney assessed the requests from each of the branches of the armed services for such expensive programs as the B-2 stealth bomber, the V-22 Osprey tilt-wing helicopter, the Aegis destroyer and the MX missile, totaling approximately $4.5 billion in light of changed world politics.[27] Cheney opposed the V-22 program, which Congress had already appropriated funds for, and initially refused to issue contracts for it before relenting.[39] When the 1990 Budget came before Congress in the summer of 1989, it settled on a figure between the Administration's request and the House Armed Services Committee's recommendation.[27] In subsequent years under Cheney, the proposed and adopted budgets followed patterns similar to that of 1990. Early in 1991, he unveiled a plan to reduce military strength by the mid-1990s to 1.6 million, compared with 2.2 million when he entered office. Cheney's 1993 defense budget was reduced from 1992, omitting programs that Congress had directed the Department of Defense to buy weapons that it did not want, and omitting unrequested reserve forces.[27]

Over his four years as Secretary of Defense, Cheney downsized the military and his budgets showed negative real growth, despite pressures to acquire weapon systems advocated by Congress. The Department of Defense's total obligational authority in current dollars declined from $291 billion to $270 billion. Total military personnel strength decreased by 19 percent, from about 2.2 million in 1989 to about 1.8 million in 1993.[27]

Political climate and agenda

Cheney publicly expressed concern that nations such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, could acquire nuclear components after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact obliged the first Bush Administration to reevaluate the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) purpose and makeup. Cheney believed that NATO should remain the foundation of European security relationships and that it would remain important to the United States in the long term; he urged the alliance to lend more assistance to the new democracies in Eastern Europe.[27]

Cheney's views on NATO reflected his skepticism about prospects for peaceful social development in the former Eastern Bloc countries, where he saw a high potential for political uncertainty and instability. He felt that the Bush Administration was too optimistic in supporting General Secretary of the CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev and his successor, Russian President Boris Yeltsin.[27] Cheney worked to maintain strong ties between the United States and its European allies.[40]

Cheney persuaded the Saudi Arabian aristocracy to allow bases for US ground troops and war planes in the nation. This was an important element of the success of the Gulf War, as well as a lightning-rod for Islamists who opposed having non-Muslim armies near their holy sites.[41]

International situations

Using economic sanctions and political pressure, the United States mounted a campaign to drive Panamanian ruler General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power after he fell from favour.[27] In May 1989, after Guillermo Endara had been duly elected President of Panama, Noriega nullified the election outcome, drawing intensified pressure. In October, Noriega suppressed a military coup, but in December, after soldiers of the Panamanian army killed a US serviceman, the United States invasion of Panama began under Cheney's direction. The stated reason for the invasion was to seize Noriega to face drug charges in the United States, protect US lives and property, and restore Panamanian civil liberties.[42] Although the mission was controversial,[43] US forces achieved control of Panama and Endara assumed the Presidency; Noriega was convicted and imprisoned on racketeering and drug trafficking charges in April 1992.[44]

Secretary of Defense Cheney during a press conference on the Gulf War

In 1991, the Somali Civil War drew the world's attention. In August 1992, the United States began to provide humanitarian assistance, primarily food, through a military airlift. At President Bush's direction, Cheney dispatched the first of 26,000 US troops to Somalia as part of the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), designed to provide security and food relief.[27] Cheney's successors as Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin and William J. Perry, had to contend with both the Bosnian and Somali issues.

Iraqi invasion of Kuwait

On August 1, 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent invading forces into neighboring Kuwait, a small petroleum-rich state long claimed by Iraq as part of its territory.[45] An estimated 140,000 Iraqi troops quickly took control of Kuwait City and moved on to the Saudi Arabia/Kuwait border.[27] The United States had already begun to develop contingency plans for the defense of Saudi Arabia by the US Central Command, headed by General Norman Schwarzkopf, because of its important petroleum reserves.

US and world reaction
Cheney meets with Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence and Aviation in Saudi Arabia to discuss how to handle the invasion of Kuwait

Cheney and Schwarzkopf oversaw planning for what would become a full-scale US military operation. According to General Colin Powell, Cheney "had become a glutton for information, with an appetite we could barely satisfy. He spent hours in the National Military Command Center peppering my staff with questions."[27]

Shortly after the Iraqi invasion, Cheney made the first of several visits to Saudi Arabia where King Fahd requested US military assistance. The United Nations took action as well, passing a series of resolutions condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; the UN Security Council authorized "all means necessary" to eject Iraq from Kuwait, and demanded that the country withdraw its forces by January 15, 1991.[45] By then, the United States had a force of about 500,000 stationed in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Other nations, including Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Syria, and Egypt, contributed troops, and other allies, most notably Germany and Japan, agreed to provide financial support for the coalition effort, named Operation Desert Shield.[27]

On January 12, 1991, Congress authorized Bush to use military force to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN resolutions on Kuwait.[45]

Military action

The first phase of Operation Desert Storm, which began on January 17, 1991, was an air offensive to secure air superiority and attack Iraq's forces, targeting key Iraqi command and control centers, including Baghdad and Basra. Cheney turned most other Department of Defense matters over to Deputy Secretary Atwood and briefed Congress during the air and ground phases of the war.[27] He flew with Powell to the region (specifically Riyadh) to review and finalize the ground war plans.[45]

After an air offensive of more than five weeks, the UN coalition launched the ground war on February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been routed from Kuwait and Schwarzkopf reported that the basic objective—expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait—had been met on February 27.[46] After consultation with Cheney and other members of his national security team, Bush declared a suspension of hostilities.[45]


A total of 147 U.S. military personnel died in combat, and another 236 died as a result of accidents or other causes.[27][46] Iraq agreed to a formal truce on March 3, and a permanent cease-fire on April 6.[27] There was subsequent debate about whether the UN coalition should have driven as far as Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein from power. Bush agreed that the decision to end the ground war when they did was correct, but the debate persisted as Hussein remained in power and rebuilt his military forces.[27] Arguably the most significant debate concerned whether U.S. and coalition forces had left Iraq too soon.[47][48] In an April 15, 1994 interview with C-SPAN, Cheney explained that occupying and attempting to take over the country would have been a "bad idea" and would have led to a "quagmire."[49][50]

Cheney regarded the Gulf War as an example of the kind of regional problem the United States was likely to continue to face in the future.[51]

We're always going to have to be involved [in the Middle East]. Maybe it's part of our national character, you know we like to have these problems nice and neatly wrapped up, put a ribbon around it. You deploy a force, you win the war and the problem goes away and it doesn't work that way in the Middle East it never has and isn't likely to in my lifetime.

Private sector career

Between 1987 and 1989, during his last term in Congress, Cheney was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization.[52]

With the new Democratic administration under President Bill Clinton in January 1993, Cheney left the Department of Defense and joined the American Enterprise Institute. He also served a second term as a Council on Foreign Relations director from 1993 to 1995.[52] From 1995 until 2000, he served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton, a Fortune 500 company and market leader in the energy sector.

Cheney's record as CEO was subject to some dispute among Wall Street analysts; a 1998 merger between Halliburton and Dresser Industries attracted the criticism of some Dresser executives for Halliburton's lack of accounting transparency.[53] Although Cheney is not named as an individual defendant in the suit, Halliburton shareholders are pursuing a class-action lawsuit alleging that the corporation artificially inflated its stock price during this period; the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether the case can continue to be litigated.[54] Cheney was named in a December 2010 corruption complaint filed by the Nigerian government against Halliburton, which the company settled for $250 million.[55]

During Cheney's tenure, Halliburton changed its accounting practices regarding revenue realization of disputed costs on major construction projects.[56] Cheney resigned as CEO of Halliburton on July 25, 2000. As vice president, he argued that this step removed any conflict of interest. Cheney's net worth, estimated to be between $30 million and $100 million, is largely derived from his post at Halliburton, as well as the Cheneys' gross income of nearly $8.82 million.[57][not in citation given]

He was also a member of the board of advisors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) before becoming vice president.[41]

2000 election

Vice President Cheney with General LaPorte during his visit to Yongsan Garrison on April 16, 2004

In early 2000, while serving as the CEO of Halliburton, Cheney headed then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush's vice-presidential search committee. On July 25, after reviewing Cheney's findings, Bush surprised some pundits by asking Cheney himself to join the Republican ticket.[14][58] Halliburton reportedly reached agreement on July 20 to allow Cheney to retire, with a package estimated at $20 million.[59]

A few months before the election Cheney put his home in Dallas up for sale and changed his drivers' license and voter registration back to Wyoming. This change was necessary to allow Texas' presidential electors to vote for both Bush and Cheney without contravening the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which forbids electors from voting for someone from their own state for both President and Vice-President.

Cheney campaigned against Al Gore's running mate, Joseph Lieberman, in the 2000 presidential election. While the election was undecided, the Bush-Cheney team was not eligible for public funding to plan a transition to a new administration. So, Cheney opened a privately funded transition office in Washington. This office worked to identify candidates for all important positions in the cabinet.[60] According to Craig Unger, Cheney advocated Donald Rumsfeld for the post of Secretary of Defense to counter the influence of Colin Powell at the State Department, and tried unsuccessfully to have Paul Wolfowitz named to replace George Tenet as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.[61]

Vice Presidency

First term

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Cheney remained physically apart from Bush for security reasons. For a period, Cheney stayed at an undisclosed location, out of public view.[62] He also utilized a heavy security detail, employing a motorcade of 12 to 18 government vehicles for his daily commute from the Vice Presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory to the White House.[63]

On the morning of June 29, 2002, Cheney served as Acting President of the United States under the terms of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, while Bush was undergoing a colonoscopy. Cheney acted as President from 11:09 UTC that day until Bush resumed the powers of the presidency at 13:24 UTC.[64][65]

Iraq War

Cheney speaks to US troops at Camp Anaconda, Iraq in 2008

Following 9/11, Cheney was instrumental in providing a primary justification for entering into a war with Iraq. Cheney helped shape Bush's approach to the "War on Terrorism", making numerous public statements alleging Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction,[66] and made several personal visits to CIA headquarters, where he questioned mid-level agency analysts on their conclusions.[67] Cheney continued to allege links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, even though President Bush received a classified President's Daily Brief on September 21, 2001 indicating the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11th attacks and that "there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."[68] Furthermore, in 2004, the 9/11 Commission concluded that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda.[69]

Following the US invasion of Iraq, Cheney remained steadfast in his support of the war, stating that it would be an "enormous success story",[70] and made many visits to the country. He often criticized war critics, calling them "opportunists" who were peddling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" to gain political advantage while US soldiers died in Iraq. In response, Senator John Kerry asserted, "It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq [than Cheney]."[71]

In a March 24, 2008 extended interview conducted in Ankara, Turkey with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz on the fifth anniversary of the original U.S. military assault on Iraq, Cheney responded to a question about public opinion polls showing that Americans had lost confidence in the war by simply replying "So?"[72] This remark prompted widespread criticism, including from former Oklahoma Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, a long-time personal friend of Cheney.[73]

Second term

President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus (right) meets with Vice President Cheney in Vilnius, May 2006

Bush and Cheney were re-elected in the 2004 presidential election, running against John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards. During the election, the pregnancy of his daughter Mary and her sexual orientation as a lesbian became a source of public attention for Cheney in light of the same-sex marriage debate.[74] Cheney has stated that he is in favor of gay marriages but that each individual state should decide whether to permit it.[75]

Cheney's former chief legal counsel, David Addington,[76] became his chief of staff and remained in that office until Cheney's departure from office. John P. Hannah served as Cheney's national security adviser.[77] Until his indictment and resignation[78] in 2005, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr. served in both roles.[79]

On the morning of July 21, 2007, Cheney once again served as acting president for about two and a half hours. Bush transferred the power of the presidency prior to undergoing a medical procedure, requiring sedation, and later resumed his powers and duties that same day.[80]

After his term began in 2001, Cheney was occasionally asked if he was interested in the Republican nomination for the 2008 elections. However, he always maintained that he wished to retire upon the expiration of his term and he did not run in the 2008 presidential primaries. The Republicans nominated Arizona Senator John McCain.[81]

Disclosure of documents

Cheney (far right) with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush

Cheney was a prominent member of the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG),[82] commonly known as the Energy task force, which comprised energy industry representatives, including several Enron executives. After the Enron scandal, the Bush administration was accused of improper political and business ties. In July 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the US Department of Commerce must disclose NEPDG documents, containing references to companies that had made agreements with the previous Iraqi government to extract Iraq's petroleum.[83]

Beginning in 2003, Cheney's staff opted not to file required reports with the National Archives and Records Administration office charged with assuring that the executive branch protects classified information, nor did it allow inspection of its record keeping.[84] Cheney refused to release the documents, citing his executive privilege to deny congressional information requests.[85][86] Media outlets such as Time magazine and CBS News questioned whether Cheney had created a "fourth branch of government" that was not subject to any laws.[87] A group of historians and open-government advocates filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to declare that Cheney's vice-presidential records are covered by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and cannot be destroyed, taken or withheld from the public without proper review.[88][89][90][91]

CIA leak scandal

Handwritten note above Joe Wilson's editorial by Cheney referring to the covert agent before the leak took place

On October 18, 2005, The Washington Post reported that the vice president's office was central to the investigation of the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal, for Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was one of the figures under investigation.[92] Following an indictment, Libby resigned his positions as Cheney's chief of staff and assistant on national security affairs.

On September 8, 2006, Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State, publicly announced that he was the source of the revelation of Plame's status. Armitage said he was not a part of a conspiracy to reveal Plame's identity and did not know whether one existed.[93]

In February 2006, The National Journal reported that Libby had stated before a grand jury that his superiors, including Cheney, had authorized him to disclose classified information to the press regarding intelligence on Iraq's weapons .[94]

On March 6, 2007, Libby was convicted on four felony counts for obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements to federal investigators.[95] In his closing arguments, independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said that there was "a cloud over the vice president[96]," an apparent reference to Cheney's interview with FBI agents investigating the case, which was made public in 2009.[97] Cheney lobbied President George W. Bush vigorously and unsuccessfully to grant Libby a full Presidential pardon up to the day of Barrack Obama's inauguration, likening Libby to a "soldier on the battlefield."[98]

Assassination attempt

Cheney speaks to the press flanked by fellow Republicans Mitch McConnell (left) and Trent Lott, April 2007

On February 27, 2007, at about 10 a.m., a suicide bomber killed 23 people and wounded 20 more outside Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan during a visit by Cheney. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack and said Cheney was its intended target. The Taliban claimed that Osama Bin Laden supervised the operation.[99] The bomb went off outside the front gate, however, while Cheney was inside the base and half a mile away. He reported hearing the blast, saying "I heard a loud boom...The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."[100] The purpose of Cheney's visit to the region had been to press Pakistan for a united front against the Taliban.[101]

Policy formulation

Pope Benedict XVI, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mrs. Lynne Cheney at a farewell ceremony for the Pope at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Cheney has been characterized as the most powerful and influential Vice President in history.[102][103] Both supporters and detractors of Cheney regard him as a shrewd and knowledgeable politician who knows the functions and intricacies of the federal government. A sign of Cheney's active policy-making role was then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert's provision of an office near the House floor for Cheney[104] in addition to his office in the West Wing,[105] his ceremonial office in the Old Executive Office Building,[106] and his Senate offices (one in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and another off the floor of the Senate).[104][107]

Cheney has actively promoted an expansion of the powers of the presidency, saying that the Bush administration’s challenges to the laws which Congress passed after Vietnam and Watergate to contain and oversee the executive branch—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Presidential Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the War Powers Resolution—are, in Cheney's words, "a restoration, if you will, of the power and authority of the president."[108][109]

Vice President Cheney escorts former first lady Nancy Reagan at the commissioning ceremony of the USS Ronald Reagan, 2003

In June 2007, the Washington Post summarized Cheney’s vice presidency in a Pulitzer Prize-winning[110] four-part series, based in part on interviews with former administration officials. The articles characterized Cheney not as a "shadow" president, but as someone who usually has the last words of counsel to the president on policies, which in many cases would reshape the powers of the presidency. When former Vice President Dan Quayle suggested to Cheney that the office was largely ceremonial, Cheney reportedly replied, "I have a different understanding with the president." The articles described Cheney as having a secretive approach to the tools of government, indicated by the use of his own security classification and three man-sized safes in his offices.[111]

The articles described Cheney’s influence on decisions pertaining to detention of suspected terrorists and the legal limits that apply to their questioning, especially what constitutes torture.[112] U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Colin Powell's chief of staff when he was both Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the same time Cheney was Secretary of Defense, and then later when Powell was Secretary of State, stated in an in-depth interview that Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld established an alternative program to interrogate post-9/11 detainees because of their mutual distrust of CIA.[113]

The Washington Post articles, principally written by Barton Gellman, further characterized Cheney as having the strongest influence within the administration in shaping budget and tax policy in a manner that assures "conservative orthodoxy."[114] They also highlighted Cheney’s behind-the-scenes influence on the administration’s environmental policy to ease pollution controls for power plants, facilitate the disposal of nuclear waste, open access to federal timber resources, and avoid federal constraints on greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues. The articles characterized his approach to policy formulation as favoring business over the environment.[115]

In June 2008, Cheney allegedly attempted to block efforts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to strike a controversial US compromise deal with North Korea over the communist state's nuclear program.[116]

In July 2008, a former Environmental Protection Agency official stated publicly that Cheney's office had pushed significantly for large-scale deletions from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the health effects of global warming "fearing the presentation by a leading health official might make it harder to avoid regulating greenhouse gases."[117] In October, when the report appeared with six pages cut from the testimony, The White House stated that the changes were made due to concerns regarding the accuracy of the science. However, according to the former senior adviser on climate change to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, Cheney's office was directly responsible for nearly half of the original testimony being deleted.[117]

On February 14, 2010, in an appearance on ABC's This Week, Cheney reiterated his support of waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques for captured terrorist suspects, saying, "I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program."[118] At the time, Cheney still enjoyed strong support from voters in the Republican Party.[119]

Post Vice-Presidency

Political activity

Cheney speaking at CPAC in February 2011.

The Washington Post reported in 2008 that Cheney purchased a home in McLean, Virginia (Washington suburbs), which he was to tear down for a replacement structure. He also maintains homes in Wyoming and on Maryland's Eastern Shore.[120]

Cheney will be subject of an HBO television mini-series based on Barton Gellman's 2008 book Angler and the 2006 documentary "The Dark Side"video, produced by the Public Broadcasting System.[121]

Cheney maintained a visible public profile after leaving office,[122] being especially critical of Obama administration policies on national security.[123][124] In May 2009, Cheney spoke of his support for same-sex marriage, becoming one of the most prominent Republican politicians to do so. Speaking to the National Press Club, Cheney stated: "People ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish. I do believe, historically, the way marriage has been regulated is at a state level. It's always been a state issue, and I think that's the way it ought to be handled today."[125]

Although, by custom, a former Vice President receives unofficial six month protection from the United States Secret Service, President Obama reportedly extended the protection period for Cheney.[126]

On July 11, 2009 CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told the Senate and House intelligence committees that the CIA withheld information about a secret counter-terrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from Dick Cheney. Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the CIA interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counter-terrorism center at the CIA shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year.[127] Wall Street Journal reported, citing former intelligence officials familiar with the matter, that the program was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives.[128]

Criticism of President Obama

Cheney has publicly criticized President Obama since the 2008 presidential election. On December 29, 2009, four days after the attempted bombing of an international passenger flight from Netherlands to United States, Cheney criticized Obama: "[We] are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe. [...] Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency—social transformation—the restructuring of American society."[129] In response, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the official White House blog the following day, "[I]t is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer."[130][131]

During a February 14, 2010 appearance on ABC's This Week, Cheney reiterated his criticism of the Obama administration's policies for handling suspected terrorists, criticizing the "mindset" of treating "terror attacks against the United States as criminal acts as opposed to acts of war".[118]

In a May 2, 2011, interview with ABC News, Cheney praised the Obama administration for the operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.[132]


In August 2011, Cheney published his memoir, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, written with Liz Cheney. The book outlines Cheney's recollections of 9/11, the War on Terrorism, the 2001 War in Afghanistan, the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, enhanced interrogation techniques and other events.[133] According to Barton Gellman, the author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Cheney's book differs from publicly available records on details surrounding the NSA surveillance program.[134]

Health problems

Cheney's long histories of cardiovascular disease and periodic need for urgent health care raised questions of whether he was medically fit to serve in public office.[135] Once a heavy smoker, Cheney sustained the first of five heart attacks in 1978, at age 37. Subsequent attacks in 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2010 have resulted in moderate contractile dysfunction of his left ventricle.[136] [137] He underwent four-vessel coronary artery bypass grafting in 1988, coronary artery stenting in November 2000, urgent coronary balloon angioplasty in March 2001, and the implantation of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in June, 2001.[136]

On September 24, 2005, Cheney underwent a six-hour endo-vascular procedure to repair popliteal artery aneurysms bilaterally, a catheter treatment technique used in the artery behind each knee.[138] The condition was discovered at a regular physical in July, and was not life-threatening.[139] Cheney was hospitalized for tests after experiencing shortness of breath five months later. In late April 2006, an ultrasound revealed that the clot was smaller.[138]

On March 5, 2007, Cheney was treated for deep-vein thrombosis in his left leg at George Washington University Hospital after experiencing pain in his left calf. Doctors prescribed blood-thinning medication and allowed him to return to work.[140] CBS News reported that during the morning of November 26, 2007, Cheney was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and underwent treatment that afternoon.[138]

On July 12, 2008, Cheney underwent a cardiological exam; doctors reported that his heartbeat was normal for a 67-year-old man with a history of heart problems. As part of his annual checkup, he was administered an electrocardiogram and radiological imaging of the stents placed in the arteries behind his knees in 2005. Doctors said that Cheney had not experienced any recurrence of atrial fibrillation and that his special pacemaker had neither detected nor treated any arrhythmia.[141] On October 15, 2008, Cheney returned to the hospital briefly to treat a minor irregularity.[142]

On January 19, 2009, Cheney strained his back "while moving boxes into his new house". As a consequence, he was in a wheelchair for two days, including his attendance at the 2009 United States presidential inauguration.[143][144]

On February 22, 2010, Cheney was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after experiencing chest pains. A spokesperson later said Cheney had experienced a mild heart attack after doctors had run tests.[137] On June 25, 2010, Cheney was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after reporting discomfort.[145]

In early July 2010, Cheney was outfitted with a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute to compensate for worsening congestive heart failure.[146] The device pumps blood continuously through his body.[147][148] He was released from Inova on August 9, 2010,[149] and will have to decide whether to seek a full heart transplant.[150][151] This pump is centrifugal and as a result he is alive without a pulse.[152]

Public perception

In the beginning of the Bush administration, Cheney's public opinion polls were more favorable than unfavorable. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, both Bush's and Cheney's approval ratings rose, with Cheney reaching 68 percent[153] and the president with 90 percent.[154] The polling numbers for both men declined after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, however.[153][155] Cheney's Gallup poll figures are consistent with those from other polls:[153][156]

  • April 2001 – 63% approval, 21% disapproval
  • January 2002 – 68% approval, 18% disapproval
  • January 2004 – 56% approval, 36% disapproval
  • January 2005 – 50% approval, 40% disapproval
  • January 2006 – 41% approval, 46% disapproval
  • July 2007 – 30% approval, 60% disapproval
  • March 2009 – 30% approval, 63% disapproval

In April 2007, Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate of public service by Brigham Young University, where he delivered the commencement address.[157] His selection as commencement speaker was controversial. The college board of trustees issued a statement explaining that the invitation should be viewed "as one extended to someone holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather than to a partisan political figure".[158] BYU permitted a protest to occur so long as it did not "make personal attacks against Cheney, attack (the) BYU administration, the church or the First Presidency".[159]

Cheney has often been compared to Darth Vader, a characterization originated by his critics but later adopted humorously by Cheney himself as well as members of his family and staff.[160]

Personal life

Cheney is a member of the United Methodist Church[161] and was "the first Methodist Vice President to serve under a Methodist president."[162]

His wife, Lynne Cheney, was Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1996. She is now a public speaker, author, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The couple have two children, Elizabeth and Mary, and six grandchildren. Elizabeth, his elder daughter, is married to Philip J. Perry, former General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security. Mary Cheney, a former employee of the Colorado Rockies baseball team and Coors Brewing Company, a campaign aide to the Bush re-election campaign, and an open lesbian, currently lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her longtime partner Heather Poe.[163]

Hunting incident

On February 11, 2006, Cheney accidentally[164] shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney, in the face, neck, and upper torso with birdshot pellets when he turned to shoot a quail while hunting on a southern Texas ranch.[165]

Whittington suffered a mild heart attack and atrial fibrillation due to a pellet that embedded in the outer layers of his heart.[166] The Kenedy County Sheriff's office cleared Cheney of any criminal wrongdoing in the matter, and in an interview with Fox News, Cheney accepted full responsibility for the incident.[167] Whittington was discharged from the hospital on February 17, 2006. Later, Whittington stated, "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that vice president Cheney has had to go through this past week."[168]


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Further reading

Works by
  • Professional Military Education: An Asset for Peace and Progress : A Report of the Crisis Study Group on Professional Military Education (Csis Report) 1997. ISBN 0-89206-297-5
  • Kings of the Hill: How Nine Powerful Men Changed the Course of American History 1996. ISBN 0-8264-0230-5
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United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Teno Roncalio
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's At-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Craig Thomas
Business positions
Preceded by
Thomas H. Cruikshank
Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton
Succeeded by
David J. Lesar
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jack Kemp
Chairman of House Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Jerry Lewis
Preceded by
Trent Lott
Minority Whip of the House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Newt Gingrich
Preceded by
Jack Kemp
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
2000, 2004
Succeeded by
Sarah Palin
Political offices
Preceded by
Donald Rumsfeld
White House Chief of Staff
Served under: Gerald Ford

Succeeded by
Hamilton Jordan
Preceded by
Frank C. Carlucci
United States Secretary of Defense
Served under: George H. W. Bush

Succeeded by
Les Aspin
Preceded by
Al Gore
Vice President of the United States
Acting President: June 29, 2002 and July 21, 2007
Succeeded by
Joe Biden
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Al Gore
United States order of precedence
as of 2009
Succeeded by
John Dingell

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