- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan — On the shimmering shores of the Dead Sea, Liz Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, emerged yesterday as the new rising star in the Middle East.

She has been armed with a budget of more than $100 million and charged with sparking an Arab renaissance to undermine the influence of extremists and to encourage democracy and equality for women.

Mrs. Cheney, 36, a comparatively junior member of the State Department, was singled out as the official to get to know over canapes and fruit juice by many of the 2,000 delegates attending the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

The prospect of meeting the woman tipped as the rising star in the Bush administration was one of the main attractions for the besuited and caftan-wearing delegates.

Mrs. Cheney is officially the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East. She was, at first, reluctant to take the job.

Now, she is being taken on her own merits. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is also in Jordan, has been a cheerleader for Mrs. Cheney’s program that promotes literacy and democratic reform, describing it as a “firm foundation of hope.”

In a speech last month, President Bush personally pledged his support. Among high-profile supporters in the Arab world is Queen Rania of Jordan.

Since taking up her post in March last year, Mrs. Cheney has tried to keep a low profile but has been criticized as a linchpin of the “neocon” Washington establishment by Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist.

An “incredibly positive” champion of efforts to topple Saddam Hussein, she was, says Miss Dowd, part of the pro-war “fifth column” at the State Department. She is said to be a tough and determined ideologue, which she inherits from her father and mother, Lynne Cheney, who is also a political pundit.

Those who have seen her in action say that she shares the family trait of steeliness. She has learned the Arabic word for “no” and uses it frequently to rebuke those who suggest that government intervention is the only route to reform.

She is no rebel, unlike her younger sister, Mary, a lesbian who was pointedly not invited to the presidential inauguration. She is the eldest daughter, was raised in Wyoming and Washington and is quoted as fondly remembering family holidays spent driving around the United States in a Toyota, as her father pursued his passion for Civil War re-enactments.

She was graduated from the University of Chicago law school, then went from working on small-business development for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Budapest to the World Bank’s Washington office. She has two children, and her husband is also a career bureaucrat.

Mrs. Cheney emphasizes the role of women to try to neutralize the influence of extremist groups and mullahs who exploit frustration and poverty. She aims to teach women their legal rights and help them run for office.

She has claimed progress in raising women to the political level of equals in Bahrain, Morocco and Qatar but suffered a setback this month in Jordan when women failed to gain more than the six seats reserved by quota in the parliament.

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