Opinion

The unending Cheney tempest

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Dick Cheney,Kevin Daley

On first taking the oath of office in 2001, President George W. Bush quoted a letter Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Channeling the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, Bush asked "Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm?"

The whirlwinds and storms of the Bush administration most often featured a man his detractors would never call an angel. As vice president, Dick Cheney drew comparisons to all manner of villains, including "Star Wars" antagonist Darth Vader. Family disputes over his daughter's homosexuality are frequently fodder for public discussion. Even former colleagues have joined the cast of the long-running Cheney drama -- retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told NBC in 2011 "Something happened to Dick Cheney and it wasn't just 9/11," adding "I simply don't recognize Mr. Cheney anymore."

The former vice president, his wife, Lynne, and daughter Liz joined Politico's Mike Allen for a luncheon panel discussion at Washington's Mayflower Hotel on Monday, the Cheney tumult in tow.

Moments after the discussion started, demonstrators from the social justice advocacy group Code Pink stormed toward the ballroom's stage, brandishing signs and handcuffs calling for Dick Cheney's arrest. As Secret Service agents swarmed the activists, the protesters shouted "Dick Cheney should be arrested for war crimes."

Another, dragged past television cameras by federal agents cried "You destroyed Iraq. You're destroying this country."

Order restored, the event continued, only to be interrupted by Code Pink a second time. Two more demonstrators shouted from the edge of a balcony adjacent to the stage as cell phone cameras flashed and a security detail saw them out.

"I wondered why the line was so long," Lynne Cheney quipped to laughter and applause. The line to enter the ballroom stretched the length of the Mayflower's posh lobby.

On the sidewalk outside the hotel, another agitator sporting an elaborately caricatured Dick Cheney costume shouted through a blowhorn, as mildly amused attendees attempted to navigate the spectacle and return to downtown offices.

Allen's questions added their own dramatic flair. He pressed the Cheneys on their often adversarial relationship with the press, and a very public family feud over same-sex marriage. Liz Cheney and her sister Mary, a lesbian who lives with her wife Heather Poe, stopped speaking after Liz declared her opposition to marriage equality during a brief campaign for a Wyoming Senate seat. Allen read a brief e-mail from Mary, who declined to attend the event, as though playing the part of mediator.

His family splintering on display for Washington to see, as demonstrators charge the stage, Dick Cheney sat quietly, cool and emotionless, his eyes wandering the length of the ballroom, haunted, or perhaps ambivalent, to the circus that stalks him wherever he goes.

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