New York, N.Y.–During a 1936 rally, supporters of FDR unfurled a banner proclaiming: “We love you for the enemies you have made.” As far as Republicans are concerned, Dick Cheney has made all the right enemies. They have only helped him become even more popular with the Republican rank and file. On “Opportunity Night” this Wednesday, he can be expected to bring his characteristic clarity to both America’s promise and to the high-stakes choice facing voters this November. The Republicans want to draw contrasts this week, and the vice president will wield a sharp pen. It will be clear why he is such a trusted counselor and effective campaigner.
In making the case for the Bush administration’s progress in the war on terror, there is also a contrast with the empty threats and indecision of the previous administration. When Dick Cheney soberly reminds his audience tonight of the lethal enemies bent on killing Americans, we will be reminded that John Edwards’s sunny speech in Boston was forgotten within minutes of delivery.
It will be up to the vice president to explain the critical necessity of remaining on offense against mortal threats. With the future at stake, and this moment seen in its historical context, this doting grandfather of four will be expressing the obligation he feels to keep the country safe.
Puzzled liberals will marvel at the enthusiastic reception Dick Cheney can count on. But, becoming a lightening rod for criticism from the New York Times has never been a firing offense for conservatives. The media chatter about dumping the vice president in favor of [insert wildly improbable substitute here] was nonsense. Dick Cheney was always a sure bet to remain on the ticket because he has become the most consequential vice president in history.
This vice president has redefined the office he holds. The teamwork at the top is not confined to an intimate exchange of views at weekly private lunches with the president. Following his own national-security briefing each morning, Cheney sits in on the president’s because, he explains, “It’s useful to hear what questions he’s asking.” The vice president is responsible for developing both economic and national-security policies for the president’s consideration and, when Cheney meets with foreign leaders, they are still breathing.
Former aides and colleagues talk about how perfectly suited Dick Cheney is for what John McCain called the “time of crisis” we are in. Visitors recount how reassured they feel after spending time with the vice president. I know I would want his number on speed-dial in case of an emergency. He reads history and he thinks strategically. His command of issues and breadth of experience inspire confidence, and the president knows he can count on his loyalty and discretion.
Since they were graduate students together at the University of Wisconsin–him in political science, her in English–Dick and Lynne Cheney have shared a lively interest in public policy. When they lived anonymously nearby, I would frequently see Lynne Cheney doing the family shopping at Borders bookstore. With a writer’s eye, she has helped shape her husband’s speech.
When the 34-year-old Dick Cheney was the youngest chief of staff in history in the Ford White House, his Secret Service codename was “Backseat.” On Wednesday evening, this remarkably successful public servant will be in the spotlight he remarkably never seeks.