to Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney soon met Donald Rumsfeld, then
director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and sent Rumsfeld
an unsolicited 12-page memo on streamlining the OEO. Rumsfeld
-- so impressed by Cheney's seriousness and intellect -- asked
the political neophyte to be his special assistant in 1969. When
Rumsfeld received a promotion, he would bring along his protégé
as his deputy.
I saw was a young fellow, intelligent, purposeful, laid back,"
Rumsfeld is quoted as saying in Newsweek magazine. "He would
take a problem, worry it through, and move things to a conclusion."
steady advancement in the government reached a pinnacle when President
Ford in 1975 named Rumsfeld his secretary of defense, and heney
moved up as Ford's chief of staff, becoming the youngest person
ever to assume the job, at age 34.
a reputation as a diligent and loyal staffer, as Ford later wrote
in his memoirs: "Cheney was very low-key ... [a] pragmatic
'problem-solver'," who worked 18-hour days and was "absolutely
loyal" to him. Even Cheney's Secret Service code name, "Back
Seat," belied his role as the behind-the-scenes, yet influential,
lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Cheney
returned to Wyoming and campaigned for the state's sole seat in
the House of Representatives. Weeks into the campaign, Cheney's
three-pack a day smoking habit, poor diet and high-stress work
caught up with him and he suffered his first heart attack at the
age of 37.
Cheney campaigned even harder and won the election in 1978.
reelected to the House for five consecutive terms, during which
he racked up a conservative voting record, including strong opposition
to abortion-rights and gun control legislation. Cheney also voted
against the Clean Water Act and Head Start education funding,
citing his concerns over budget deficits. Even though he was a
staunch partisan, Democrats and Republicans alike respected Cheney
as a politician of gravitas with a collegial attitude.
Cheney ably rose through the House ranks, serving on the House
Intelligence Committee and as chairman of the Republican Policy
Committee. In 1988, House Republicans elected Cheney the minority
whip, the second-ranking post of the GOP in the House.
bright. He doesn't have a mean streak. He deals with issues, not
personalities. He doesn't run to the cameras," Lee Hamilton,
former House Democrat from Indiana who served on the House Intelligence
Committee with Cheney, told Time magazine. "Dick always has
been a person you can take ideas to and see how he reacts to them.
You can confide in him."
Amid his political
success, however, Cheney suffered another heart attack in 1984
and a third in 1988, just a day before his 47th birthday. Later
that year, he underwent a quadruple bypass surgery.
Congress in March 1989 when President George H.W. Bush tapped
him as secretary of defense. The Senate unanimously approved
Liz Harper, Online NewsHour