At the end of 1993, Dick Cheney was worried.
Since leaving the Pentagon, the former Defense Secretary had spent his time at a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), mulling his options, including a possible run for President in 1996. Cheney was not optimistic about the national mood or the broader political debate; he saw the world as a dangerous place full of threats, and he worried about how conservatives were responding.
He wanted to send a signal, and in December 1993 he took the opportunity to do so at the AEI's 50th anniversary party, in front of an audience of nearly 2000 conservative luminaries. Cheney criticized the democratic administration, Clinton's misplaced priorities and lack of leadership, and how foreign and defense policy had been relegated to the bottom of the public agenda. But he also administered some tough medicine when it came to his own party. "Republicans bear part of the responsibility for this state of affairs," he told the room of loyalists. "We are the ones who acquiesced last fall in the Democrats' assertion that the 1992 campaign for the presidency should address domestic issues only," he said, delivering a stinging rebuke to the prevailing wisdom of his former boss's political strategy. Republicans' "first failing was in allowing ourselves and the American people to be lulled into a false sense of security . . . as a result, we've lost our focus, and there is now a lack of understanding of what's at stake." The remedy, Cheney concluded, was clear: "It is more important than ever that our president be a foreign policy president."
Ultimately, Cheney found it hard to raise money and garner much support for a "foreign policy president." In a little over a year, he decided not to run.
Copyright © 2008 by Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier. All rights reserved.