Dick Cheney biography
Born January 30, 1941, Dick Cheney entered politics in 1968. He worked for President Nixon and was Gerald Ford's chief of staff (1975-1977). Cheney then served six terms in Congress before being appointed secretary of defense by George Bush.
Politician. Dick Cheney was born on January 30, 1941, in Lincoln, Nebraska, to parents Richard Herbert Cheney, a soil-conservation agent, and Marjorie Lauraine Dickey Cheney, a former softball player. Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming, a town he would later describe as being idyllic with a classic 1950s feel. It was there that he met his high school sweetheart and future wife, Lynne Vincent.
Upon graduating from high school, Cheney was accepted to Yale University and offered a full-ride scholarship. He enrolled, but eventually dropped out. "I spent a total of four semesters [at Yale], but I was not a diligent student. Really wasn't. Hadn't given it any thought. Wasn't gonna go to college and buckle down. Big transition going from small-town Wyoming to New Haven, Connecticut." When not attending classes, he worked as a power lineman in a working-class town. Although Yale had not suited Cheney, he decided to pursue college once more. He enrolled at the University of Wyoming, where he received a B.A. in political science in 1965 and an M.A. in political science in 1966. During his time as a student, Cheney applied for and received five draft deferments and thus avoided being drafted in the Vietnam War; he would later say that he "would have obviously been happy to serve had I been called," but "I had other priorities in the 60's than military service." Cheney and Lynne married in 1964, and would have two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.
With two degrees under his belt, Dick Cheney started his political career in 1965. He worked as a part-time legislative intern to the Wyoming Senate legislature, which had a Republican majority. Cheney and his wife, both of whom had been raised in Democratic households, began professionally associating as Republicans. After Cheney won a national writing contest for student political scientists, he was offered a position as an aide to the Wisconsin governor. He and Lynn both enrolled in PhD programs at University of Wisconsin at Madison. Lynn received her doctorate in English, but Cheney had not yet finished his dissertation when he received a fellowship to work in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Bill Steiger, a Wisconsin Republican. Cheney later indicated that he wanted to go into politics because of his dissatisfaction with ivory tower academia: "I was always struck, because [there were] a lot of complaints about the administration, the management of the university, oftentimes about the students — sort of critical of everybody out there, because the place was chaotic at that time. There were days when the National Guard was out with its tear gas trying to control the protesters. These folks were unhappy with what was happening, but in all the time I'd been in Wisconsin not one of these folks had ever stood up and been counted on either side of the debate.
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.
Perhaps the largest overstepping of bounds came from Dick Cheney's involvement with the Valerie Plame scandal. In 2003, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, was involved in leaking to the press the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent who was also the wife of Bush critic and ambassador Joe Wilson. Libby was eventually found guilty of lying during the investigation and was sentenced to jail; President Bush commuted his sentence but did not pardon him. Cheney later publicly announced that he disagreed with Bush's decision, marking one of their very few public disagreements.
Another major area of disagreement between Cheney and Bush was same-sex marriage: Bush is opposed, whereas Cheney's younger daughter, Mary, is a lesbian. Neither Dick and Lynne Cheney supports a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, as they believe that states should be able to decide; however, they allowed Bush to form his own federal policy on this issue during the administration.
Dick Cheney declined to seek the Republican nomination during the 2008 election. Since 2009, Cheney has regularly appeared in the news as a critic of President Barack Obama's administration, though he praised President Obama for his handling of Osama bin Laden's assassination. As of 2010, he has had five heart attacks, though this has not slowed down his pace of speaking and writing: he recently began working on a memoir. An avid hunter and fisher, his Secret Service code name was "Angler," and he made headlines in 2006 for accidentally shooting a fellow hunter in the face. Cheney is generally regarded to be a man who used his power to do what he believed was necessary, and was not deterred by the consequences. Not one to either make apologies or skirt controversy, Cheney's legacy will likely continue to be debated.