Facebook Twitter

A quick smile. a talent for quiet persuasion

SHARE A quick smile. a talent for quiet persuasion

WASHINGTON — Richard B. Cheney, widely credited with helping mastermind the U.S.-led military victory over Iraq, by reputation is deliberate but decisive, a Washington insider who honed his skills of persuasion both in Congress and the executive branch.

Out of sight for most of the past decade, the 59-year-old Cheney is very much back in the public eye as Texas Gov. George W. Bush's choice as vice presidential running mate.

The face is rounder now than when Cheney, former President Bush's defense secretary, was on the world's TV screens during his prosecution of the Persian Gulf War. Some of the hair's gone.

But he still has that seemingly permanent half-smile, a friendly look that comes with a disarming manner that helped him get along with Democrats even while amassing a deeply conservative voting record on Capitol Hill.

In April, when George W. Bush put Cheney in charge of his vice presidential search team, Bush called him "a man of enormous experience."

The highlight of Cheney's four years as Pentagon chief, from 1989 to 1993, was the resounding victory in the Persian Gulf War. During that time he also oversaw the Pentagon's first big wave of post-Cold War defense cuts — and characteristically cautioned Congress against cutting too deeply, too rapidly.

In November 1991, several months after the Gulf War ended, Cheney publicly worried about the future of the Soviet Union — which dissolved one month later — and foresaw an instability that continues today.

"We don't know what the hell's going to happen over there over the next few years," he said then. "We know they've got somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 nuclear weapons."

Cheney was born in Lincoln, Neb., and his father was a longtime Agriculture Department worker. He attended elementary school and high school in Casper, Wyo.

He was football co-captain and senior class president, and won a full scholarship to Yale — Bush's alma mater. He attended Yale for one year but had to leave because of failing grades. He moved back to Wyoming where he worked for the power company stringing and cutting lines, before enrolling at the University of Wyoming, where he renewed a relationship with high school sweetheart Lynne Anne Vincent.

They married in 1964 and both went to the University of Wisconsin for doctorates. She earned her doctoral degree, but politics lured him to Washington in 1968, where he was a congressional fellow and became a protege of Illinois Republican Rep. Donald Rumsfeld, a close friend of President Gerald Ford.

Cheney served under Rumsfeld in the anti-poverty agency of the Nixon years, on the Nixon White House staff and under Rumsfeld again as assistant director of the Cost of Living Council, Nixon's agency to combat inflation.

When Ford tapped Rumsfeld to become his chief of staff, Rumsfeld made Cheney his deputy. When Rumsfeld left the White House to be defense secretary, Cheney moved up to become the youngest chief of staff ever, at age 34. He held the post for 14 months.

After Ford left office, Cheney returned to Casper, Wyoming and ran for the state's single congressional seat.

Despite his heart attack in the middle of the first campaign — which he discussed with all of Wyoming's Republicans in a letter explaining why he would continue to campaign — Cheney won decisively. He went on to win five more terms.

In Congress, Cheney quickly rose within the GOP power chain. He was one of President Reagan's most ardent supporters, backing him up on defense issues like the "Star Wars" missile defense system. He also voted against Democrats on almost every social issue, including abortion rights, gun control and the Equal Rights Amendment.

The American Conservative Union gave him nearly perfect ratings for each of his years in Congress.

During the Iran-Contra scandal, as vice chairman of the congressional investigation commission, Cheney became of one Congress's most stalwart defenders of the Reagan administration. William Cohen, the current defense secretary and a former member of Congress, recalled Monday that he served with Cheney on the Iran-Contra commission and worked with him during Cheney's years at the Pentagon.

Asked his view of Cheney's qualifications to be vice president, Cohen said, "I think that he brings enormous qualifications to the position."

Cheney was not President Bush's first choice to be defense secretary. His initial pick, Sen. John Tower, withdrew after it became clear he could not win Senate confirmation. Cheney quickly established himself in the Pentagon.

When the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael J. Dugan, talked to reporters in unusual detail about U.S. war plans in the Persian Gulf in September 1990, Cheney said he went too far and fired him.

But Cheney, the former politician and Washington insider, also has a deft diplomatic style that was typified during the Gulf War, again, when he flew to Saudi Arabia to convince King Fahd that allowing U.S. forces into his kingdom would be wise.

In 1995, Cheney became chairman and chief executive officer of Dallas-Based Halliburton Corp., one of the world's leading engineering and construction firms focused on oil companies. Under Cheney's guidance, the company's stock price and profits have soared, as has Cheney's personal portfolio. In 1998, he made $2.2 million in salary and controlled another $10 million in Halliburton stock.

He is also a director of several large corporations, including Procter & Gamble, Union Pacific, and Electronic Data Systems.

The biggest question about Cheney may be his health. His 1978 heart attack was the first of three and in 1988 he had a quadruple bypass.

Cheney remains physically active, and his heart problems do not seem to have slowed him down — he continues to go on hikes that last for days and fly-fishing trips.

One skeleton that could hurt a Bush-Cheney ticket is the ever-constant specter of the Vietnam War. Cheney received five student and marriage deferments of service during the war. He told The Washington Post in 1989, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service. ... I don't regret the decisions I made. I complied fully with all the requirements of the statutes, registered with the draft when I turned 18. Had I been drafted, I would have been happy to serve."

Cheney has been married to Lynne for 36 years. The couple has two grown daughters.

During the Reagan years, Lynne Cheney became as well known in Washington as her husband.

She raised two children, put in a stint as an editor at the Washingtonian magazine, ran the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 until 1993, wrote a novel, "Executive Privilege" and, with him, wrote "Kings of the Hill," a study of eight past speakers of the House. She is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.


Associated Press Writer Douglas Kiker contributed to this story.