Cheney douses the fire
A few days before Christmas, former Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from several months of a self-imposed political sabbatical to headline a fundraiser for Maria Cino, a party operative and Bush administration official who is running to replace Michael Steele as head of the Republican National Committee.
The fundraiser for Cino, held at the Alexandria, Va., home of Cheney's former aide Mary Matalin, was his first major foray into partisan Washington political theater since receiving a mechanical heart pump in July that has, most doctors say, saved Cheney's life by taking on the task of helping to push blood through his arteries.
Cheney, as he did at several holiday receptions in Washington, chatted about his new pump. While he is noticeably thinner, he is returning, associates say, to his old life, including hunting and socializing.
But for the most part, Cheney, 69, has put aside his public role as the fiery, combative political figure of the past two years, who seemed to relish every opportunity to engage in verbal jousting with President Barack Obama. Now, family members and friends paint a portrait of a man more interested in documenting his years of service in a memoir and navigating life with his new pump.
Cheney's heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say. And the man who has participated in some of the nation's toughest decisions, now faces one of his own: whether to seek a full heart transplant.
Cheney, who spent the holidays at his ranch in Wyoming, recently had a class of West Point cadets over to his house in McLean, Va., to talk about his experiences working for four of the past five Republican presidents and what it was like to work at the White House. In Wyoming, he has been spotted in local grocery stores, stocking up to make chili and spaghetti sauce, "as well as walking me through how to cook Christmas dinner," daughter Liz Cheney said in an e-mail.
But most of all, she said, her father has been working on his book, which is scheduled to come out this fall. "He still prefers to write in longhand on yellow legal pads despite my efforts to introduce a laptop into his process," she said.