Lynne Cheney is stepping down as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, where she has been the Bush administration's most vocal critic of "political correctness" on college campuses.
In a letter to her staff Tuesday, Cheney said she will resign Jan. 20, when the Clinton administration takes office, 16 months before the end of her second four-year term. She has served 61/2 years.Her deputy, Celeste Colgan, will serve as acting chairman until a successor is nominated by the incoming president.
"I have served as endowment chairman longer than any of my predecessors and . . . this period of transition seems a fitting time for me to move on to other things," she wrote in the letter.
Among her accomplishments, Cheney listed the endowment's support for the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA and funding for Ken Burns' TV documentary "The Civil War."
"I have also seen it as my responsibility to inform the public about controversies on our campuses," she said.
"Ensuring that intellectual freedom is protected and thrives is one of the most important tasks of our day, and I hope that the endowment will remain a strong advocate of the idea that the university is a place where ideas should clash and compete."
Cheney has been an outspoken critic of liberal "political correctness" on college campuses, which demands that multiculturalism and the roles of women and minority groups be given equal weight to traditional Europe-based scholarship.
"One of the things I have observed about Washington is that people don't know when to leave," she told The Washington Post in an interview published in Wednesday's editions. "My time of maximum impact and influence here is past."
She also told The Washington Times, in an interview published Wednesday, that "it would have been a different situation if Bush had won." She suggested that the NEH would no longer be "a real force in important debates in society" in the Clinton administration, and, "I'm not psychologically suited to run it 50 percent."
Initially appointed by President Reagan and then reappointed by President Bush, Cheney has served longer than any of her predecessors in the 27-year history of the endowment.
The endowment's budget has expanded by a third, to $177 million, since she took office.
Her husband, outgoing Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, is frequently mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and has done nothing to stifle speculation that he might seek the GOP nomination.