(The obituaries of most famous public figures are written long before their actual death, and there are surely hundreds or thousands of Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney folders in the files of obituarists around the world, just waiting for their appointed hour.)
“Principle is OK up to a certain point, but principle doesn’t do you any good if you lose,” Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney, first appointed to office by Richard Nixon, told journalist Tim Russert in 1976. And it could be argued that until his closely guarded death at his Wyoming ranch sometime last week, Cheney never did truly lose, despite bringing scandal, ethics investigations, and eventual doom to every administration he worked for. By demonstrating his loyalty to an aggressive and frequently extra-legal realpolitik intentionally divorced from the realm of ethics–and getting away with it–this avid chili lover, “stump” of a high school football player from Wyoming, who dropped out of Yale, was twice nabbed for drunk driving, and who shot rabbits, birds, a hunting partner, and other animals in his free time, became a grimacingly enduring icon of American business and politics.
“He said the presidency was like one of those giant medicine balls,” said Bruce Bradley, who hired Cheney to work at his investment firm in 1973, after Cheney left the imploding Nixon administration. “If you get ahold of it, what you do is, you keep pushing that ball and you never let the other team push back.” People who think the presidency of Donald Trump is wholly unexpected should study Cheney’s playbook! During debates arranged for the benefit of Bradley’s clients at the time, Cheney would argue forcefully that Nixon’s resignation was forced merely by his enemies’ political ploys, and not because Nixon had violated any laws or betrayed the oath of his office.