Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal

Exclusive: Dick Cheney is an inspiration to right-wing Republicans set on dismantling the New Deal and getting rid of as many government jobs as possible. But Cheney’s memoir traces his success in life back to the security created by the federal programs of Franklin Roosevelt, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Former Vice President Dick Cheney would agree that he is about as right-wing as an American politician can be, openly hostile to the federal government’s intervention in society except perhaps for protections on gay rights, an issue that affects his family.

But one surprise from his memoir, In My Time, is that Cheney recognizes that his personal success was made possible by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and the fact that Cheney’s father managed to land a steady job with the federal government.

“I’ve often reflected on how different was the utterly stable environment he provided for his family and wondered if because of that I have been able to take risks, to change directions, and to leave one career path for another with hardly a second thought,” Cheney writes.

In that sense, Cheney’s self-assuredness may be as much a product of the New Deal as the many bridges, dams and other public works that Roosevelt commissioned in the 1930s to get Americans back to work. By contrast, the insecurity that afflicted Cheney’s father was a byproduct of the vicissitudes from laissez-faire capitalism.

So, it is ironic that as an adult, Cheney has contributed as much as almost anyone to dismantling the New Deal, the social compact that pulled his family into the American middle class and opened extraordinary opportunities for him.

In sketching his family’s history, Cheney depicts the hard-scrabble life of farmers and small businessmen scratching out a living in the American Midwest and suffering financial reversals whenever the titans of Wall Street stumbled into a financial crisis and the bankers cut off credit.

After his ancestors would make some modest headway from their hard work, they would find themselves back at square one, again and again, because of some “market” crisis or a negative weather pattern. Whenever there was a financial panic or a drought, everything was lost.

“In 1883, as the country struggled through a long economic depression, the sash and door factory that [Civil War veteran Samuel Fletcher Cheney] co-owned [in Defiance, Ohio] had to be sold to pay its debts,” Cheney writes. “At the age of fifty-four, Samuel Cheney had to start over,” moving to Nebraska.

There, Samuel Cheney built a sod house and began a farm, enjoying some success until a drought hit, again forcing him to the edge. Despite a solid credit record, he noted that “the banks will not loan to anyone at present” and, in 1896, he had to watch all his possessions auctioned off at the Kearney County Courthouse.

Samuel Cheney started another homestead in 1904 and kept working until he died in 1911 at the age of 82.

His third son, Thomas, who was nicknamed Bert (and who would become Dick Cheney’s grandfather), tried to build a different life as a cashier and part owner of a Sumner, Kansas, bank, named Farmers and Merchants Bank. But he still suffered when the economy crashed.

“Despite all his plans and success, Bert Cheney found that, like his father, he couldn’t escape the terrible power of nature,” Dick Cheney writes. “When drought struck in the early 1930s, farmers couldn’t pay their debts, storekeepers had to close their doors, and Farmers and Merchants Bank went under. … My grandparents lost everything except for the house in which they lived.”

Bert Cheney’s son, Richard, ventured off in a different direction, working his way through Kearney State Teachers College and taking the civil service exam. He landed a job as a typist with the Veterans Administration in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“After scraping by for so long, he found the prospect of a $120 monthly salary and the security of a government job too good to turn down,” his son, Dick Cheney, writes. “Before long he was offered a job with another federal agency, the Soil Conservation Service.

“The SCS taught farmers about crop rotation, terraced planting, contour plowing, and using ‘shelter belts’ of trees as windbreaks – techniques that would prevent the soil from blowing away, as it had in the dust storms of the Great Depression. My dad stayed with the SCS for more than thirty years, doing work of which he was immensely proud.

“He was also proud of the pension that came with federal employment – a pride that I didn’t understand until as an adult I learned about the economic catastrophes that his parents and grandparents had experienced and that had shadowed his own youth.”

Like many Americans, the Cheney family felt it had been pulled from the depths of the Great Depression by the New Deal efforts of Franklin Roosevelt, cementing the family’s support for the Democratic president and his party.

“When I was born [on Jan. 30, 1941] my granddad wanted to send a telegram to the president,” Cheney writes in his memoir. “Both sides of my family were staunch New Deal Democrats, and Granddad was sure that FDR would want to know about the ‘little stranger’ with whom he now had a birthday in common.”

After growing up in the relative comfort of middle-class, post-World War II America, Dick Cheney would take advantage of the many opportunities that presented themselves, attaching himself to powerful Republican politicians, most notably an ambitious congressman from Illinois named Donald Rumsfeld.

When Rumsfeld left Congress for posts in the Nixon administration, he brought the hard-working Cheney along. Eventually Rumsfeld became White House chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and – when Rumsfeld was tapped to become Defense Secretary in 1975 – he recommended his young aide, Dick Cheney, to succeed him.

Cheney’s career path through the ranks of Republican national politics, with occasional trips through the revolving door into lucrative private-sector jobs, was set. He would become a major player within the GOP Establishment, establishing for himself a reputation as one of the most conservative members of Congress and a foreign policy hawk.

By last Jan. 30, on his 70th birthday (or FDR’s 129th), Cheney was widely recognized as a right-wing Republican icon. He was inspiring a new generation of conservatives to dismantle what’s left of Roosevelt’s New Deal and shrink the federal government.

It doesn’t seem to matter that those were the two social factors that created “the utterly stable environment” which gave Dick Cheney his chance in life.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book,Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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15 comments on “Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal

  1. John Q Public on said:

    what a DICK!

  2. Typical phony ‘boot strap’ pimp who the writer, as good as he is, didn’t even mentioned that the head pimp of the destruction, decline and death of America personally profited unlimitedly from gobmint contracts, see Iraqi War2 (or whatever their going to call it). How do you spell Halliburton?

  3. Well, isn’t this similar to the breaking of the mold so that there wont be others? That seems to be the mantra today with the powers to be, though they must really feel insecure to want to deny anyone else the rights they have enjoyed. As with all such realities, this too will fall by the wayside, sooner than anyone thinks. The 21st century has already shown us that, in the way that all the corruption that has take place since Bush was elected, is now out in the open, though at the time, those implicated & involved thought it wouldn’t come out for 40 years, at which time, they would be dead. Unless the world is bombed back into the stone age, the present mindset will be exposed, handled, relegated to the spam box & deleted, sooner than later. As for Cheney, disgraced to which his dependents will be forced to face.

  4. RIGG KENNEDY on said:

    THIS SON OF A BITCH HAS TAKEN, STOLEN AND PLAGIARIZED EVERY ONE AND ANY ONE WHO CAN PUT MONEY IN HIS POCKET AND A FOOT UP HIS BUTT. HE IS ONE OF US HISTORY’S GRAVEST SCUMBAGS FOR HIS CHEATING, SINS, LIES AND TREASON MAKING HIM ONE WAR CRIMINAL THAT THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF WAR CRIMES WOULD LOVE TO CAPTURE AND AMERICAN JUSTICE IF IT EVER RETURNS TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WHO ARE APPARENTLY HELPLESS AGAINST THESE CAPITAL CRIMES COMMITTED BY THOSE ENTRUSTED WITH CLEAN, HONEST AND WORTHY SERVICE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!!! JUSTICE DELAYED, DENIED OR ARGUED AS IF HIS CRIMES WERE REALLY FASCIST REPUBLICAN CORPORATE DECISIONS. HE WILL NEVER KNOW THE WEIGHT OF HIS CRIMINALITY UNTIL HE IS ARRESTED, INDICTED AND TRIED AS A WAR CRIMINAL! I DO NOT THINK THE NAZIS THOUGHT THEY WERE GUILY OF WAR CRIMES EITHER OR WERE THEY MORE HONEST THAN TRICKY DICK-LESS CHENEY-HOLE!

  5. American Son on said:

    On the lost Innocence of 9/11:

    Please, go to that article. Then, take my advice. Go to YouTube, and look up Percy Faith, the theme from, “A Summer Place”. If you’re as old as I am, and you listen to it, you’ll know what we gave up to get Dick Cheney’s “New Deal”. Listen to it over and over, and while you’re at it, look up the words. If you can stand to read them. That song is all about what America used to be all about. And read this quote:

    “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on
    a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of
    it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people
    don’t want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in
    Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the
    country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to
    drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist
    dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no
    voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.
    That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked,
    and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the
    country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

    Hermann Goering

    Do you feel like a sheep…or an American?

    • Korzybski on said:

      Something has fundamentally changed in the American psyche. Something has so profoundly changed that, while I can’t put my finger on it, I still know exactly what it is. It’s that, ‘deja vu’ sensation of knowing, but you can’t figure out how you know. I remember an analogy from a 1930′s philosopher who had been mulling over a problem, and smoking one cigarette after another. Back then, it was still acceptable to smoke (And, they seemed to get more done without computers.), so please pardon my choice of analogies.

      Perhaps motivated by the ‘Mi Lai Massacre’, our military, determined to regain its moral compass, and came up with, “The Soldier’s Creed”. It is a rather lovely statement of the sacred duties which are implicit in the,” Profession of Arms.” But, back to my 1930′s philosopher. The ashtray was full. He had stumbled on upon a wonderfully ethereal, fleeting realization which demanded immediate deposition of ink upon paper. But he was annoyed by acrid vapors from the ashtray. One of the butts was still smoldering, but which one?

      Absent-mindedly, he stubbed what he thought seemed the likely offender, and proceeded. There were so many, but only one could be the source. So he continued, and penned his observations without concern. The ashtray burst into flames and the glass explosively fractured, spewing flames and embers upon all his papers. His abstract musings gave way to abject panic and inability to react. He could have easily and quickly smothered the flames with the vastly more resilient and retardant substance of his own physical self, but we withdrew, and left the defenseless paper to its own demise.

      This is what we saw at Abu Ghraib. We saw NOT the application of that “Soldier’s Creed”, but the updated version, promulgated by Don Rumsfeld, in the form of, “The Warrior Ethos”. I won’t take up too much space here by quoting it; you can easily find it. It is a hard-hearted, cold blooded transformation of what we used to teach our Soldiers. I can’t take credit for this realization. That goes to Dr. Robert Fisk. An enlightening YouTube video, “Robert Fisk, Conversations with History” (If I got it right), would be a worthwhile educational investment for most of our young citizens.

      But, back to my cigarette-smoking 1930′s philosopher. He blamed one of the butts for his misfortune. A revelation so important to all of mankind which he feverishly toiled to capture…up in smoke? And he blamed one of the butts? My question about him is the same as my question about Abu Ghraib: “Who was in charge of the ashtray?”

      It’s bad enough our kids can’t speak English anymore. But to lie to them on top of that is unforgiveable.

  6. Ray Helm on said:

    Well, we must give Cheney credit for one thing, at least he is not a right wing religious hypocrite. I have never heard him mention God’s name or claim God was on his side. However, could it be that Cheney thinks he is GOD?

  7. American Son on said:

    I wanna see him on trial for war crimes. I want the Nueremberg Standards applied to his sorry ass. I want every Geneva Convention he ever violated to get added cumulatively to his sentence. I want him to get, as Larry Wilkerson said, “Pinoche’d”. I want him to be afraid to ever walk outside of his house again. And I want that because my job is to take care of Soldiers. My job is to take care of Soldiers, and as long as that miserable bastard is alive, none of them are safe.That despicable coward has put more American kids at risk than any “terrorist” ever did. That despicable, cowardly, draft-dodging hypocrite. God, Dear God, I’m afraid to say I’m a Colonel in the Army. I want him tried for War Crimes.

    • We would like to hear MORE from the military about their take on their
      leadership. Bravo for stepping forward!
      We are talking about the ones who are following orders of the misguided “leaders” to stuff the pockets of the few. Those in the military who still have a conscience need to display holy disobedience to a corporate God that has less interest in people than an ill fated ideology to disaster capitalism.

    • Karen Romero on said:

      Don’t worry, what is written in his Akashic Record is worse than him being tried for War Crimes.

  8. socrates on said:

    I, too, am a product of Rooseveltian New Deal policies, as was my dad. What DICK Cheney and his fellows did is called “raising the ladder..”
    Nothing new here, folks. Same scum, different names.

  9. Jym Allyn on said:

    To those of you who have expressed outrage over Dick Cheney’s career being at the expense of other Americans (and who is Halliburton’s biggest customer) and his hypocrisy and cynicism, I wanted to add my thank you.
    Support of Cheney should be a benchmark of stupidity and gullibility.

  10. Dickhead Cheney is still an evil tool and a war criminal who should be in prison for his crimes against humanity. However, his wealth and expensive lawyers have prevented him from going to jail, and Scooter Libby was as much of a “fall guy” for him as Gordon Liddy was a scapegoat for another dick, Nixon, who also evaded prosecution and a lengthy prison sentence. Due to the fact that justice will never be served on American soil in Cheney’s lifetime, we can only hope and pray that he will get what he deserves in the next life. Actually, Cheney will get the chance to spend some “quality time” (eternity) with Richard Nixon in an uncomfortably humid location.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

  11. History and reality are always trumped by right wing ideology. Any simple fact that shows right wing ideology to be defective is to be ignored.

    Had FDR not accomplished what he did, little Dick Cheney might have become a hardscrabble farmer buffeted by forces in New York and DC who would never take into account his needs and desires since he would have been just another peasant to be exploited and abused by the ultrawealthy running the show.

  12. Dickhead Cheney’s heart is as weak and defective as his soul.