It’s often observed of George W. Bush that, per the old saw, he was born on third base but he thinks he hit a triple. On the other hand, like him or loathe him, Dick Cheney came from humbler circumstances, and must be given some credit for the sharp elbows and all-American ambition that led him to success. But don’t let’s get too misty-eyed prasing Dick for his enterprise, because he’s not all that different from Dubya when it comes to admitting that he may not have done it all by himself.
As we await the vice-presidential debate, this exchange from the 2000 VP debate comes to mind:
LIEBERMAN: I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, “Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Most people would say yes. I’m pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers that you’re better off than you were eight years ago, too.
CHENEY: I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)[emphasis added]
Oh really? This lone-wolfish insouciance comes from a guy who has been working in government since the late 60’s and whose father and father-in-law were both federal civil servants. He seems more than happy to accept the largesse that comes with being a public servant, including free, world-class health care, a government pension, and free trips in a Gulfstream jet to go duck-hunting with pals. Now, all of these goodies probably don’t mean much to a man with a net worth of $50 million, but as far as we know, he hasn’t forsworn any of these perks, nor has he offered to pay for them himself. Guess big government isn’t always so reprehensible. (But maybe he can’t help it — it’s just that pernicious “culture of dependency“…)
Most of Cheney’s fortune, of course, comes from his tenure at Halliburton, and while we must all tip our hats to the chutzpah of a man who appointed himself to the positions of CEO and running mate, could Halliburton’s abrupt decision to hire Cheney — who had no prior experience in business management — have had anything to do with the Cheney’s work in government, or, specifically, the fact that, as Secretary of Defense, he’d awarded lucrative contracts to Halliburton as part of a program to outsource military functions to private contractors?