The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture


Tuesday, March 11, 2003  

JUST ASKING
Questions for Vice President and Mrs. Cheney

I have a few questions for Vice President Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Mrs. Richard B. (Lynne V.) Cheney.

If Mrs. Cheney is not a public figure, why didn't she hire an attorney in private practice to relay her complaint to WhiteHouse.org Editor-in-Chief John A. Wooden?

Why was the letter of complaint to Wooden instead sent by David S. Addington, counsel to Vice President Cheney?

Why was the letter written on official stationery?

Why does the letter refer to Mrs. Cheney as "the Honorable Lynne V. Cheney"?

And if Addington was not acting in his official capacity as counsel to the vice president, will Mrs. Cheney be reimbursing the federal government for the time spent by Addington and his staff at rates comparable to those charged by Washington, D.C., law firms?

For the record, Mrs. Cheney is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank that is home to numerous former officeholders and public intellectuals, and current advisers, including Robert H. Bork, David Frum, Newt Gingrich, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and Richard Perle, each one of whom, by virtue of the prominence accorded by his or her status at A.E.I. and/or accomplishments beforehand, makes him or her a public figure.

In addition, Mrs. Cheney was chairman [sic] of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993. She also was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution and in the past advised President George W. Bush on education issues.

There is no room for confusion on this issue from the vice president's lawyers or advisers, nor from Mrs. Cheney. She is highly educated woman who, despite having earned her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in English and British literature, has taken a more politically advantageous interest in history over the course of her career and that of her husband.

According to her official biography, published at the White House web site, "Mrs. Cheney has written articles about history for numerous publications on topics ranging from woman suffrage in the West and the way Americans celebrated the country's centennial to more tongue-in-cheek assessments, such as the impact of technological advances like air conditioning, the Xerox machine, and the paper shredder on life in Washington, D.C." [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

(One would think a woman who has written "tongue-in-cheek" articles would have a greater appreciation for parody. Clearly, she has not.)

I'll concede Mrs. Cheney strategically has lowered her profile of late. Her latest book, America: A Patriotic Primer, is not a scholarly work. It is described by the White House as "an alphabet book for children of all ages and their families," a characterization that might appear to include at least a subtle dig at President Bush. (And in fairness to Mrs. Cheney, her A.E.I. colleagues Charles Murray and Dinesh D'Souza have written similarly unscholarly work on the institute's dime.)

Yet as the official White House site makes clear, Mrs. Cheney is a frequent public speaker, invited to address numerous audiences, including the Fairfax (Va.) County Library, the National Press Club, the National Volunteerism Awards Luncheon, the Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

I'll let the reader decide whether these organizations sought Mrs. Cheney's appearance because of her connection to the Bush-Cheney administration or to A.E.I.

Furthermore, in National Public Radio's archive addresses to the National Press Club, Mrs. Cheney's status is conflicted. In the archive she is identified as Lynne Cheney, "Wife of Vice President Dick Cheney." The page at the web site devoted to the address she is identified as a "senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute," but the photo of Mrs. Cheney on the same page comes from the White House.

In fact, Mrs. Cheney herself at times has been rather coy on this point. For example, she began her July 2002 address to the National Press Club with these words:

It's a great pleasure to be here today at the National Press Club. You welcomed me when I came here as [c]hairman [sic] of the National Endowment for the Humanities. I appreciated your hospitality then, and I appreciate your inviting me to come again now that I am in a somewhat different role.

"Somewhat different role"? Care to be more specific, Mrs. Cheney? Care to clarify the matter for us? Which role is it? Senior fellow at A.E.I.? Second Lady? Both? Former chairman [sic] of the National Endowment for the Humanities? All three? None of the above?

Or does she think nobody cares?

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