Lynne Cheney, the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been a high-profile supporter of rightist causes for decades, including from her current perch as senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). During the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush years, Cheney was an influential and controversial voice on education policy; more recently, she was an avid booster of George W. Bush's "war on terror."
An example of Cheney's support for the policies pursued by her husband and President Bush came in October 2006, when she went on the attack in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, accusing CNN (her former employer) of left-wing bias. An earlier CNN special on America's "Broken Government," Cheney said, "seemed straight out of Democratic talking points, using phrasing like 'domestic surveillance' when it's not domestic surveillance that anyone has talked about or ever done. It's surveillance of terrorists. It's people who have Al Qaeda connections calling into the United States. So I think we're in the season of distortion, and this is just one more." When Blitzer asked if any innocent people had been scrutinized by the surveillance program, Cheney shot back, "Well, are you sure these people are innocent?" Referring to a CNN broadcast of images depicting Iraqi insurgents attacking U.S. troops, Cheney accused CNN of running "terrorist propaganda," asking Blitzer if he wanted "us to win" in Iraq.1
Cheney has defended her husband against accusations that he made misleading statements about the nature of the threat in Iraq before and after the 2002 U.S.-led invasion. Speaking on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show" in 2006, Cheney contradicted various recorded utterances made by her husband in claiming that he never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11: "I've seen Dick specifically say 'no' to the question asked 'is there a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11?' because there isn't a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."2
Cheney has also been a staunch defender of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, her husband's one-time chief of staff, who was convicted in connection with the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Describing Libby as "a man who spent a great deal of his life as a dedicated public servant who's done an awful lot of good,"3 Cheney asserted that Libby's trial did "not reflect well on our judicial system."4
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Cheney received media attention when an organization she jointly founded with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in the mid-1990s, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), published a report called "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America." Many observers harshly criticized the ACTA report for apparently seeking to "blacklist" professors who had made allegedly anti-American statements such as, "It is from the desperate, angry, and bereaved that these suicide pilots came."5
The criticism spurred ACTA to issue a "revised and expanded" edition of its report in February 2002, which included "a sampler of the many responses" to the original report. The revised edition, authored by ACTA staff, claims in its "Acknowledgements" that "no public official—including Lynne Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman—has endorsed or been asked to endorse this report." The new report is in essence a compendium of some 100 statements recorded by ACTA that reveal what it calls "moral equivocation" and outright hostility toward the United States among academic elites.
Such statements include: "Just because a grotesque act was committed against this country, does not mean any response is justified; it does not grant this country special license to use the sword;" "[Americans should] bring ourselves and our country to justice, not just the perpetrators;" and, "War created people like Osama bin Laden, and more war will create more people like him." While the original version cited the names of particular professors, leading to charges that the report resembled a blacklist, the revised edition suppressed the names "to focus discussion on the content of the views expressed, rather than the individuals who expressed them." Also, the revised report no longer contained a number of scathing judgments that were reportedly featured in the first report, such as the charge that "colleges and university faculty have been the weak link in America's response" to the attacks, and "when a nation's intellectuals are unwilling to defend its civilization, they give comfort to its adversaries."6
Cheney has a history of criticizing colleges for shifting the focus of courses to global culture and history. Reported one journalist: "The American experience, she argues, was the high point of world history: 'I find it hard to imagine that there's a story more wonderful than being driven by the desire to worship freely, to set off across that ocean, to make a home out of this wild, inhospitable land.'"7
Pre-9/11, Cheney's hard-line views focused mainly on countries like China. According to The Atlantic's James Fallows, while Cheney served on the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, she repeatedly insisted that a military showdown with the Chinese was unavoidable.8
Cheney serves as director emerita of the Independent Women's Forum (IWF), a right-wing group opposed to "radical feminism," government sponsored childcare, and equal pay for equal work standards for women in government service. IWF was one of the contractors selected by the State Department to implement the "Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative" to train Iraqi women for political participation.9
Cheney's children are also engaged in conservative politics. Daughter Elizabeth worked on Fred Thompson's campaign for the 2008 presidential election.11 Previously, she served as George W. Bush's deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, where she oversaw the Iran-Syria Operations Group, which sought "to plot a strategy to democratize those two 'rogue' states.'"12 Daughter Mary was formerly a board member of the Republican Unity Coalition, and served as director of vice-presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign. A former vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL, Mary Cheney is now a principal at Navigators Global, a "governmental relations and strategic communications firm."13
In recent years, Cheney has focused her work on U.S. history, penning a children's book titled We the People: The Story of Our Constitution (2008) and working on a biography of James Madison.14 Snarked one observer at the New York Post, "Ex-Veep Dick Cheney, snug in the Witness Protection Program after pushing the war in Iraq and its dread Weapons of Mass Destruction, is now unleashing his wife on us. Lynne Cheney's written Founding Genius: A Biography of James Madison. It's up at Viking, it's going for an auction, it's heading for publication in 2011, and its agent is Robert Barnett of the Williams & Connolly law firm. Mr. Barnett has rep'd everyone out of D.C.—Clintons, Bushes, Obamas. He missed only Jefferson and Lincoln."15