Dana Perino Reflects on the Man Behind 'The World According to Dick Cheney'
As press secretary in the White House of President George W. Bush, Dana Perino, now one of the co-hosts on Fox News Channel's weekday roundtable show "The Five," has a view of former Vice President Dick Cheney shared by few in the media.
A portion of her comments about him are in my feature story on the documentary, premiering tonight, Friday, March 15, on Showtime. Click here for that.
But, just for HCTV fans, here are Perino's full emailed remarks on the topic:
What do you recall about your first meeting with Mr. Cheney?
I don't remember the exact moment, though I noticed right away, even when I was low man on the totem pole, that he always knew my name and would tip me a wink and a smile. I also immediately thought I could trust him -- he has a sense of purpose and certitude that is admirable in a leader. I also loved how he loved his family, especially his daughters, and also how he and Mrs. Cheney would dress up their dogs for Halloween.
What did you learn from him?
That you never get in trouble for something you didn't say. That it was better to listen than to talk, especially if you're the highest-ranking person at a meeting -- you want to let people feel like they can express themselves, and you should hold your comments until the end. That's what the VP would do during policy time -- and then he would share his thoughts privately with the president. He didn't need to hear himself talk in meetings.What surprised you about him?
That while he had health issues that we all knew about, he never gave the appearance of being tired. He was always the most prepared person in the room for meetings -- and even if he closed his eyes in a meeting, you'd be mistaken if you thought he was taking a cat nap. Believe me, he heard every word! Plus, he had no personal political ambitions -- that's an amazing thing if you think about it. That fact allowed him to have an even better relationship with the President, in my opinion. He wasn't looking over President Bush's shoulder to the next political primary.
He played an unusually active role as vice-president - what challenges did that pose for you as a communications expert?
I'd suggest people check out the Personnel chapter in President Bush's book "Decision Points" - it explains the choice and the relationship. And a communication's person's job is to deal with all sorts of situations -- most days, the VP was the least of my concerns.
What do you think his legacy will be?
The great thing is, none of us will live long enough to find out -- history will have to decide. I like how he can spin up the Left and just make them crazy by never being cowed by them. I think that he was an excellent choice for the Vice Presidency.
Why do you think so many people view him as this ominous figure?
I suppose it's because they disagreed with his views and instead of having a disagreement, they had to decide that he must be evil. That's a major problem in politics today -- people don't just question the policy views of someone, they question their integrity and their motivations.
Do you stay in touch?
I saw him during his book tour and Liz (his daughter, Liz Cheney, a Fox News contributor) and I are in touch regularly by email and Twitter. We like to keep up on each other's lives, especially through puppy pictures. And I pass on tweets and emails to her of people asking me to tell him they are grateful for his extensive service.
What would you like to tell people about him?
That many times during the presidency, the VP and Mrs. Cheney would invite all of the wounded warriors who were being treated at Walter Reed over to the VP residence for a BBQ. They'd hire someone to play country music and they'd just sit and visit and give the wounded a bit of a break from the routine of the hospital. And they never once invited the press. Good people are those who do wonderful things for others and don't ask for any credit -- the Cheneys fit that bill.
Will you be watching the Showtime documentary?
Definitely...now that "Justified"'s season is almost over, I need something else to watch! I was proud to be able to serve in the Bush-Cheney administration, so I like to read and watch thoughtful pieces about those years.