Dick Cheney worked in the White House of Richard Nixon, who had to resign as Congress began impeachment proceedings that grew out of his dishonest and disreputable stewardship of the presidency

Dick Cheney worked with the White House of Ronald Reagan, which was investigated by Congress and the courts for establishing – and then lying about — a secret plan to violate the law by directing resources to its Iran-Contra co-conspirators in the Middle East and Latin America.

Dick Cheney worked in the White House of George Herbert Walker Bush, who pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Robert C. McFarlane, Elliott Abrams and others who had been indicted, and in some cases convicted, by Iran-Contra prosecutors.

Dick Cheney left the public sector to work in the corporate sector, where he established close alliances with the executives of Enron and hired the Arthur Andersen accounting firm to manage Halliburton’s books.

Dick Cheney then stepped back into the public service as the prince regent to a boy president whose administration stands accused of “fixing” intelligence in order to convince Congress and the American people to support an unnecessary – and ultimately disastrous – invasion and occupation of Iraq. As part of that initiative Cheney has repeatedly been caught promoting inaccurate claims about the supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and an illusory “connection” between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

Now, as he prepares to testify in the trial that is set to begin Tuesday on the charges of obstruction of justice and perjury that have been brought against his disgraced former chief-of-staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney says of Libby: “I believe he’s one of the more honest men I know.”

Cheney has refused repeated requests by members of Congress who want him to testify regarding Libby’s actions and the efforts of the vice president’s office to discredit retired Ambassador Joe Wilson, the man who exposed one of the administration’s most serious assaults on the truth – the pre-war claim that Iraq was taking steps to rapidly develop a nuclear arsenal. Yet, the vice president told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday that he plans to offer “my whole-hearted cooperation” to Libby’s legal defense.

Wallace wanted to know whether the vice president was at all concerned by the many revelations regarding Libby’s professional and personal problems. “But there’s nothing that you have heard,” the anchor asked, “nothing that you have read that shakes your confidence in Scooter Libby’s integrity?

“That’s correct,” replied Cheney.

Libby, the vice president exclaimed, is “one of the finest individuals I’ve ever known.”

There will be those who question whether the vice president can possibly be serious when he expresses confidence in what remains of Libby’s integrity and describes his longtime aide as “one of the most honest men I know.”

But let’s put this in perspective. After almost four decades of working with the likes of Richard Nixon, the Iran-Contra conspirators, Enron and its accountants, Cheney might actually be telling the truth here.

In the circles in which Cheney has traveled throughout his career, Libby might come off as a paragon of virtue and veracity. That ought not much trouble prosecutors, however. The vice president is his own man, and he plays by his own set of rules. Just as Cheney has never felt constrained by any Constitutional definition of duty to the republic, nor has he ever provided even the slightest indication that he is familiar with the textbook definition of “honesty” – let alone with the notion that an official ought to value that quality in those with whom he chooses to associate.

John Nichols’s book, The Rise and Rise of Richard B. Cheney: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Most Powerful Vice President in American History (The New Press), is available nationwide at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com. Publisher’s Weekly describes it as “a Fahrenheit 9/11 for Cheney” and Esquire magazine says it “reveals the inner Cheney.”