The New Image of Dick Cheney

Brian Birdnow

9/3/2011 12:01:00 AM - Brian Birdnow

This week marks the debut of former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s memoir entitled In My Time. Cheney has helped pump up interest in his volume, promising that it will stir up a hornet’s nest in Washington and among the chattering classes, at large. Some commentators, most of whom have not yet read the tome, are accusing Cheney of settling old scores and answering his critics, instead of offering a substantive contribution to the historical literature of the Bush Presidency. Time will tell, but Cheney can be excused for taking a shot or two at his critics because, in truth, there was no more unfairly maligned Bush Administration official than His Honor, the Vice-President of the United States. In fact, Dick Cheney serves as a primer in the way that the modern Left, working with their allies in the mainstream media seek to destroy a perceived enemy.

In order to fully address this issue we must try to understand the subject matter, apart from media caricature. Who is Dick Cheney? Simply put, Cheney is a westerner, a Nebraska-born, Wyoming resident who served his state and his country ably in a startling number of capacities. He began serving as an aide to Donald Rumsfeld in the early days of the Nixon Administration. This led to Cheney transiting to the Nixon White House, itself, where he served as an aide. His calm efficiency and low-key style attracted favorable attention and Cheney took over as the Chief-of-Staff in the Ford White House in 1974, holding this position throughout Ford’s short Presidency and serving as his 1976 campaign manager.

Cheney briefly returned to private life after the Carter transition in 1977, but won election to Congress as a Republican from Wyoming in 1978. He easily won his re-election contests for the next ten years. A close analysis of Cheney’s voting record in Congress reveals a very solid conservative of Reaganite inclinations. Most of the pundits and commentators, however, regarded Cheney as a Center-Rightist of the Ford type, meaning that he was more conservative than not, but by no means a firebrand. Moreover, Congressman Cheney enjoyed generally favorable coverage from the Washington Press Corps.

In 1989 the incoming President, George HW Bush nominated Cheney to serve as his Secretary of Defense, after the Senate rejected his first choice, U. S. Senator John Tower. Cheney gave up a safe congressional seat and stepped into a potential minefield in leading the DOD during a treacherous period. The victorious end of the Cold War guaranteed that the defense budget would be reduced; regardless of whether or not this was prudent statecraft. Cheney dealt with the contentious issues of closing many outdated military bases and trimming the number of active duty personnel by over 600,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. He performed these duties admirably well and earned kudos for steady direction of his department during the Gulf War of 1990-91. Some commentators named Cheney the best SECDEF of all time, while others, slightly more restrained, celebrated him for vigorous leadership in the wake of the superb performance of the U.S. military forces in the war.

After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, Cheney returned, again, to private life and he eventually took a position as the CEO of Halliburton Corporation. He seemed perfectly content in private life and only reluctantly agreed to serve as a senior advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in the summer of 2000. In the process of vetting potential Vice-Presidential running mates, Cheney found himself pressured to accept the nomination himself and he accepted, although he did express deep misgivings. Perhaps he could see the abuse he would suffer in short order.

During the 2000 campaign Vice-President nominee Cheney provided immediate help to the Bush effort, besting his Democratic opponent, Joe Lieberman, in debate and stumping effectively for the GOP ticket throughout October. The Left began to dislike him at this point. They will tolerate a conservative Wyoming congressman, and will suffer the occasional Center-Right Defense Secretary, especially if that SECDEF turns out to be an excellent administrator/manager who helped to implement the strategies that routed the vaunted Iraqi army. When, however, Cheney proved to be a campaign asset who helped to deny Al Gore the Presidency, he became the enemy and the Left prepared to ruin him, by any means possible, just as they did to Barry Goldwater, Ed Meese, Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin, just to name a few of their targets.

Early in the Bush-Cheney first term the media zeroed in on the Vice-President’s heart condition, speculating that Cheney could not stand the rigors of office and would not last the term. Many mainstream media analysts openly predicted that Bush would dump Cheney from the ticket in 2004; not the first time that liberal pundits have mistakenly reported their own desires as actual fact. Things changed dramatically on September 11, 2001. While some observers puzzled over the V.P.’s whereabouts at the time, he did prove a steady and cool hand and an invaluable source of advice for the President, when such qualities were needed. Cheney earned praise from fair-minded people for his performance and even received a nod or two from the Left, when the lightning attack on Afghanistan toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

Cheney and his aides had no time to enjoy his vindication. He began making the case for the Iraqi invasion, citing the familiar reasoning concerning Iraqi support for Islamic terrorism, Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of WMD, and his continued defiance of United Nations resolutions. (Apparently he defends his actions vigorously in his new book) This dynamic effort to advance the President’s foreign policy objectives brought the house down on his own head.

The Vice-President soon saw himself pilloried as a result of the Valerie Plame imbroglio from 2003-2005. Even when Richard Armitage admitted that he was the culprit in the “leaking” of Ms. Plame’s identity, it counted for nothing. Things grew more bizarre by the day. The unhinged television comedian, Bill Maher, regularly accused Cheney of attempted murder, following a hunting accident in 2006. Cheney wanted to continue to fight for Administration initiatives, but, after the Democrats big win in the midterm 2006 elections, a tired and dispirited President Bush decided to simply adopt a run-out-the-clock strategy on his second term.

Since the transfer of power in 2009 Cheney has become the favorite bogeyman of the Left. He has been called “Darth Vader” and “Dr. Strangelove”. Liberal media figures continue to engage in their campaign of slander, defamation, and character assassination. In the run-up to the release of the book last week NBC-TV anchor Matt Lauer referred to Cheney as “…the most political figure in this country in a century.” Dick Cheney is more divisive than Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, or Hillary Clinton? Mr. Matt Lauer has lost the little sense he was born with! Also last week, on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program, guest host Ron Reagan stated flatly “Cheney is a war criminal.” The medias favorite Republican, Colin Powell, chimed in with his criticism of Cheney’s “…cheap shots.” Maureen Dowd, the loveless harpy at the New York Times, calls Cheney “…quite delusional”.

Strong and able public figures usually engender animosity among their opponents, especially their inferiors. This ill will usually ebbs away once they are retired and safely out of office. In Dick Cheney’s case the animosity has not faded, nor will it pass away anytime soon. Cheney will not apologize to the liberals for any sins they deem him to have committed. He is unrepentant, so he must be destroyed. The Left will continue the campaign of slander, defamation, and character assassination for the rest of Dick Cheney’s natural life. This campaign of vilification will not end in the near future. In fact, it has only just begun!