Dick Cheney’s Better Half

Vice-President of the United States under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, has long loomed large on the American stage. In fact, he looms even larger now, in retrospect, than he did before, than he did while he was in office.

Either credited or blamed with fashioning U.S. foreign and military policy, especially during Bush’s first term in the White House, Cheney is widely judged the most powerful vice-president in American history. In an article in the New York Review titled, “He Remade Our World,” Mark Danner claims that Cheney is responsible for no less than a “transformation” in the American disposition – a transformation that is “truly breathtaking.” Danner writes that the “revolutionary changes in our government’s policies toward holding prisoners, toward waging war, and toward surveilling its citizens could never have been effected without the imagination, experience, and audacity of Dick Cheney.” (April 3, 2014.)

Curiously, one of the most interesting things about this most interesting man is, of all things, his wife. In another life, in another time, Lynne Cheney would be a standout, one of the most well-known and well-respected women in America. Ambitious and powerful long before it became oh-so-fashionable for women to be ambitious and powerful, Lynne Cheney has had an extraordinary professional as well as personal life. It is, however, a life that has been largely overshadowed by her husband’s larger-than-life hold on the American imagination. And it is also a life that has been all but obscured by the media’s liberal bias, for like her husband, Lynne Cheney is an ardent conservative.

I will not list here her remarkable string of accomplishments. A quick check with Wikipedia will provide the curious reader with a handy-dandy chronicle of Lynne Cheney’s various careers as a much-published author, highly-placed administrator, and well-known political activist. What really impressed me though was the review in the New York Times this past Sunday (May 4, 2014) of her most recent book, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.

The review was written by none other than Gordon S. Wood, long considered one of the most eminent and esteemed of American historians. And it was, by and large, excellent. That is, while Wood’s essay on Cheney’s book did not claim that it was perfect – she tended, he wrote, “to flatten out her narrative line” – it did claim that it was first rate. It would appear, in other words, that the women who is the wife of Dick Cheney has written one of the most important biographies ever of one of the most important Americans ever. Wood concludes his review as follows: “Cheney’s biography is lucidly written… and she clearly brings to life the character and personality of Madison. Apart from Ralph Louis Ketcham’s 1971 life, this is probably the best single-volume biography of Madison that we now have.”

Not too shabby for a Second Lady.

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