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Dick Cheney Suddenly Discovers There's a Lot to Like About Rick Perry | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Dick Cheney Suddenly Discovers There's a Lot to Like About Rick Perry

Dick Cheney is selling a book, of course.

But he is also selling himself—as a grand old man of the Republican Party and a potential counselor to his old enemy Rick Perry.

Anyone who knows anything about Cheney—from the days when he rearranged the offices in the White House to assure his ability to dominate policy discussions with Gerald Ford—recognizes that he makes it his business to get close to Republican presidents.

And Republican presidential prospects.

When George Bush was running for president in 1999, Cheney put himself in position to select a prince regent for the boy pretender. And it did not surprise serious Cheney watchers when he elbowed aside more capable and conscientious contenders such as former Missouri Senator John Danforth.

Now, Cheney is using his book tour to insert himself in the 2012 presidential debate. And, no surprise, he is making nice with the new front-runner—even though he once did everything in his power to end the political career of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Back in 2010, when US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, was challenging Perry for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Cheney was one of Hutchinson’s highest-profile backers. In the fall of 2009, Cheney flew from Washington to Texas to headline a Hutchinson rally where he declared: “We Westerners know the difference between a real talker and the real deal. When it comes to being conservative, Kay Bailey Hutchison is the real deal.”

So Cheney dismissed Perry as the “real talker,” not the “real deal.”

Texas Republicans thought differently. They gave Perry 51 percent of the vote to a paltry 30 percent for Cheney’s choice.

No problem.

Cheney played a critical role in managing Gerald Ford’s 1976 Republican primary campaign against Ronald Reagan, only to emerge as a key Reagan ally in the 1980s.

Now he is talking up Perry on Fox News, pushing the notion that the Texan’s western roots made him strong contender with the line: “I was always struck by the extent to which the rest of the country is attracted to Texas and to Texas politicians.” (He might want to ask President John Connally or Vice President Lloyd Bentsen about that one, but let’s cede the point for now.)

So what’s up with Cheney?

How come he’s now agreeing with Fox’s Steve Doocy’s assessment that “there’s something about (Perry)…that has attracted a lot of people.”

What happened to the “real talker” not the “real deal” line?

That’s easy.

Cheney goes where the power is. He is attracted to it like a banker to a bailout—or a Halliburton executive to a government contract.

And Perry’s got the power of the polls on his side.

Just as Cheney convinced himself that an inept and inexperienced governor of Texas was the right man to run for president in 1999, so he is convincing himself that an inept and inexperienced governor of Texas is the right man to run for president in 2011.

What’s the real appeal? That’s easy: Cheney thinks that, as long as Republican candidates and presidents take his counsel (especially on foreign policy and corporate giveaways), all will be well—perhaps not for the United States and the world, but surely for Cheney.

Cheney sought the Republican nomination for the presidency for a few months in 1994 and 1995, only to learn that he had no base of personal support in he party.

Fair enough, he figured. He would go the voters one better and make himself the power behind the throne. So it was that the man who selected himself to be Bush’s vice president came to be identified by White House political czar Karl Rove as “management”—as in “better check with management.”

Bush is gone.

But not Cheney. He won’t ever be president, or even vice president again. But he’s always at the ready to counsel, to advise, to guide.

And there’s a new governor of Texas who may need some “management.”

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