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Dick Cheney served four Republican presidents and spent six terms in the House. The former Vice President specialized in defense, energy, and the Middle East.
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They were totally disengaged."
While serving as Steiger's aide, Cheney wrote an administrative memo discussing how then-Congressman Donald Rumsfeld should handle his confirmation hearings to become the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Steiger showed the memo to Rumsfeld,
who promptly hired Cheney. This was the beginning of a powerful Washington relationship that informed every subsequent Republican administration into the 2000's. By 1976, Cheney was Chief of Staff of the Gerald Ford White House.
When Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election, Cheney moved back to Wyoming to run for the state's sole seat in the House of Representatives. His high-stress political life was beginning to take a toll, though: Cheney suffered his first heart attack during the campaign, at the age of only 37. Successful nonetheless, Cheney, who had once been described as "a man with a powerful anti-charisma," became a powerful Republican congressman. He won reelection five times, serving as chairman of the House Republican Conference and becoming House Minority Whip in December 1988.
Before the 101st Congress could convene, Dick Cheney was unexpectedly selected to be the Secretary of Defense for incoming President George H.W. Bush. As Defense Secretary, Cheney dealt with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the downsizing of defense spending. He earned the respect of the military with his careful handling of Operation Desert Storm.
When Bill Clinton was elected to the presidency in 1992, Dick Cheney left government and joined the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Though he contemplated running for president in 1996, he instead opted in 1995 to become CEO of Halliburton, which required him to move to Dallas. In 2000, Texas Governor George W. Bush asked Cheney to head up the search for his vice presidential nominee. Bush eventually asked Cheney himself to serve as his vice president. Cheney then resigned as CEO of Halliburton and focused on the campaign. After a long and contested process, Bush and Cheney were declared the winners of the 2000 election.
From the start, there were signs that the Bush-Cheney relationship would not be a typical president-vice president relationship. Former vice president Dan Quayle recalled attempting to brief Cheney on a vice president's typical duties, which include fundraising and public appearances. Cheney reportedly replied, "I have a different understanding with the president."
In effect, Cheney served as Bush's surrogate chief of staff throughout his administration, with access to every layer of Bush's White House and many surrogates on the Hill. Fiercely loyal to Bush, and with no ambitions to serve as President himself, Cheney was not a "shadow president" implementing his own agenda, but rather the person implementing the details of Bush's outlined plans. Heavily involved in both military and national security issues at the highest levels, Cheney greatly expanded the power of both the executive branch and of the vice presidency itself, even at the risk of exerting unconstitutional powers, many of which were later explored in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.
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