Cheney's Lynne Problem

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
July 24 2000 6:11 PM

Cheney's Lynne Problem

"[T]he Cheneys themselves are an interesting couple. At one point, Dick Cheney was secretary of defense and Lynne Cheney was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, kind of the material and moral defense of western civilization. They're a very formidable pair. Everyone who knows them has regard for them."--William Bennett, Face the Nation, July 23, 2000

Advertisement

What is Bennett smoking? It's true that Dick Cheney--whom Bush reportedly is on the verge of naming his running mate--enjoys a certain bland respectability. But Dick's wife, Lynne Cheney, who succeeded Bennett at the NEH, is a shrill opportunist who could prove to be a serious liability for the Republican ticket.

Lynne seemed pleasant enough 12 years ago, when Chatterbox (then a reporter at Newsweek) lunched with her. She confessed that, although she was supposed to be the nation's high-culture guardian, she'd just spent her summer vacation gulping down Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. Chatterbox was charmed. Chatterbox was also impressed by her passionate advocacy of national standards for teaching American and world history.

Chatterbox had to revise this favorable opinion after the presidency passed from the Republicans to the Democrats. Almost immediately, Cheney started campaigning to abolish the NEH and savaging her former grantee, UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools, which was about to issue the very national standards she'd commissioned. Cheney maintained that the panel, whose draft report apparently mentioned Harriet Tubman six times and Paul Revere not at all, had tilted leftward after Clinton's election. In fact, as Chatterbox's Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg pointed out in a 1996 column for New York magazine, Cheney had herself OK'd some of the more vapidly left-wing content while running the NEH. Moreover, at least one of Cheney's allegations about the draft report--that it ignored the framing of the Constitution--turned out not to be true. Passages in a subsequent draft drew Cheney's ire for various inoffensive assertions, such as, "the Great Depression was one of the great shaping experiences of American history," and, "at the beginning of the twentieth century, Western nations enjoyed a dominance in world affairs that they no longer possess." By then, Cheney had acquired an almost Stalinist resolve to kill off national standards at all cost. She proved to be such a transparent phony that sympathetic panel critics like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and John Patrick Diggins had to denounce her. (To read the latest version of the standards, click here.)

More recently, Cheney held court at a vituperative anti-Hillary Clinton panel at the (usually more sober, and nominally less partisan) American Enterprise Institute. (Click here for a Slate dispatch from the event.) There, Lynne criticized Hillary for occasionally holding her husband's hand ("It is just so distressing to me"), and questioned whether Hillary's credibility "has in any way been undermined by her unsympathetic attitude toward the women alleged to have been imposed upon by her husband." The latter formulation may give us some taste of what Lynne Cheney would sound like on the campaign trail. Cheney actually had the gall to call Hillary--get this--a hypocrite!

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 5:39 PM Whole Foods Desperately Wants Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.