Best known for serving as defense secretary under President Bush, where he won praise for his handling of the Gulf War in 1991, Richard Bruce Cheney, now Gov. George Bush’s official choice to be his vice-presidential running mate, brings a wealth of political experience to the job.
ABCNEWS.com July 24 —
Richard Bruce Cheney has a wealth of political experience, as a White House official, congressman, and Cabinet official.
Cheney, 59, is best known for serving as defense secretary under President Bush, where he earned widespread praise for his handling of the Gulf War in 1991.
But he also has an unusually diverse political background, having seen the White House from the inside as President Ford’s chief of staff — at the young age of 34 — and having served in Congress for a decade as the sole representative from Wyoming.
Since 1995, Cheney has worked in the private sector, serving as chief executive officer of Halliburton Co., a Texas-based Fortune 500 energy services company specializing in the development of oil and gas production around the world.
A Young Chief of Staff
Born in Nebraska in 1941, Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyo., then headed East to attend the Bush family alma mater, Yale University. But he dropped out during his sophomore year, and eventually earned a political science degree at the University of Wyoming in 1965.
After winning a postgraduate fellowship that took him to Washington, Cheney took a job in the Nixon administration as a special assistant to Donald Rumsfeld, who was first director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, then White House counsel.
In August 1974, after President Nixon resigned from office, Rumsfeld was called to join the White House staff as an assistant to President Gerald Ford, and Cheney moved along with Rumsfeld.
Hard-working, loyal, and good-natured, Cheney made a good impression and became Ford’s chief of staff from 1975 to 1977.
Congressional Service After Ford’s defeat to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Cheney decided to run for office himself, contesting Wyoming’s House seat in 1978.
Cheney had two sizeable obstacles to overcome during his first campaign, however. Having not lived in Wyoming for years, Cheney was faced with carpetbagger charges. Then he suffered a heart attack — the first of three in his life — in the summer of 1978.
Cleared to resume his campaign by the fall, however, Cheney duly won the election, and quickly rose in the Republican ranks, eventually becoming House minority whip.
Cheney had a solidly conservative voting record in Congress, but his low-key personal demeanor enabled him to make fewer enemies than the men who served in the same position before and after him — current Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
However, Cheney was not one to shy away from a partisan House fight, as he showed in 1985 when Republicans suddenly halted debate over aid to the Nicaraguan Contras because they felt House rules put them at an unfair disadvantage.
“Rather than play that game,” Cheney said at the time, “we said, ‘Screw it.’”
After suffering two more heart attacks in the 1980s, Cheney had quadruple bypass surgery in 1988. By now chairman of the GOP conference, he left Congress in March 1989, when President Bush asked him to be secretary of defense.
Gulf War Success
Despite lacking a military background, Cheney earned plaudits for his work at the Pentagon. His most important test came after the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990. Cheney oversaw the deployment of forces in the Persian Gulf before and during the war against Iraq that broke out in January 1991.
Cheney’s management of the operation made him a popular figure — if not as well known as Colin Powell, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Cheney also took an active role in shaping U.S. national security policy, along with President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, in accordance with Cheney’s stated policy: “Arms for America’s friends and arms control for its potential foes.”
The Bush administration also reduced the military budget, and engaged in negotiations that ultimately produced the START I and START II treaties, as well as the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Return to the Private Sector
In 1995, Cheney moved into private business, becoming chief executive of Halliburton. Since that time, Cheney has led the company to its position as the largest oil-drilling, engineering and construction services provider in the world, with a 1999 revenue near $20 million. The company acquired its main rival, Dresser Industries Inc., in 1999, a move that was well-regarded in the business world.
Cheney married Lynne Vincent in 1964. Mrs. Cheney is an author and and has served as chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has a doctorate in English, is a former editor of Washingtonian magazine and has taught at several colleges and universities. The Cheneys have two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.