- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

Former President George W. Bush returned to Washington Thursday for the ceremonial unveiling of the bust of Richard Cheney inside the U.S. Capitol, saying his vice president had the “character, integrity and judgment” that he needed during a tumultuous time in the White House.

The rare reunion in the nation’s capital came as lawmakers continue to wrestle with how best to respond to the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and as the Bush administration’s approach to foreign policy and national security gets another look on the campaign trail in the 2016 presidential race.

Mr. Bush’s younger brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has praised his brother for keeping the nation safe in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Critics, meanwhile, have argued that the Bush-Cheney administration led the nation into costly quagmire in Iraq that has hurt the nation’s image abroad and helped fuel the rise of militant Islamic groups.

“I am fortunate that Dick Cheney agreed to serve as vice president and so is our country,” Mr. Bush said at the event. “For eight consequential years I benefited from his wise counsel. He was a principled and trusted adviser on the most difficult questions facing our county.”

Mr. Cheney returned the compliment moments later, calling Mr. Bush a “man of great strength” and “great gentleness.”

“I have been granted few distinctions along the way in politics, and there is none I prize more than to have my name there in the story of those years besides the name of our president, George W. Bush,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney’s bust was unveiled in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall. The tradition dates back to the 1800s.

It marked a culmination of a decades-long career in Washington, where Mr. Cheney represented Wyoming from 1979 to 1989 in the House of Representatives and served as chairman of the House Republican conference and as House minority whip.

He left the Congress and served as secretary of defense from 1989 to 1993 in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Before the 2000 election, the younger Mr. Bush named Mr. Cheney his running mate, after having him lead a vice presidential search committee.

Mr. Cheney on Thursday thanked his wife, Lynne, for sticking by his side and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for opening doors for him on Capitol Hill in the 1960s.

“If someone had told me as a young man that my name would rank on a list that included men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman — I would have been amazed,” Mr. Cheney said. “Any such scenario would have seemed like a real stretch for the man in my early 20s who was building power lines and transmission lines across the state of Wyoming and beyond.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the event.

“I consider it a privilege Dick to know you, to have known you, to have watched you work. I just wish to hell I could have changed your mind on a half a dozen things,” Mr. Biden quipped.

“But all kidding asides, you have been a great asset to this country, and the way you have personally conducted yourself is a model for anyone in high public office in this country,” he said.

The ceremony followed the recent release of a new biography of George H.W. Bush, in which the 41st president levels some sharp criticism of the Mr. Cheney, calling his former secretary of defense an “iron-ass” who evolved into a hard-liner overly eager for a fight in the Middle East.

Mr. Cheney, though, downplayed the beef, saying he would always be thankful to George H.W. Bush for tapping him as secretary of defense.

And George W. Bush said his parents sent along their best wishes and their thanks for Mr. Cheney’s years of public service.

 

“Over the years, I have had the chance to know a number of Dick’s predecessors — I have known one of them my whole life,” Mr. Bush said, alluding to his father.

“Last week, I told mother and dad I was coming here for the bust unveiling,” Mr. Bush recalled. “Dad perked up, and he said, ‘Send my best regards to old iron-ass.’ “

He added, “Dick, that is indeed a badge of honor.”

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