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MARY CHENEY SAYS HER FATHER SAID EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTED TO HEAR WHEN SHE TOLD HIM SHE WAS GAY
Tue May 02 2006 15:29:37 ET
Vice president tells VANITY FAIR his image might be better if he spent more time trying to improve it, ?but that?s not why I?m here?
New York, N.Y. ? In her new memoir, NOW IT'S MY TURN(Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2006), Mary Cheney writes that when she told her parents she was gay, the first words out of her father?s mouth ?were exactly the ones that I wanted to hear: ?You?re my daughter, and I love you, and I just want you to be happy.??
VANITY FAIR editor Todd Purdum reports that Mary Cheney tells her story in a voice very much like her father?s, and that she came out to her parents when she was a junior in high school, on a day when, after breaking up with her first girlfriend, she skipped school, ran a red light, and crashed the family car. Cheney writes that her mother hugged her, but then burst into tears, worried that she would face a life of pain and prejudice.
When Purdum asks the vice president whether he thinks gay people are born that way, Cheney scrunches up his mouth, fixes him with a look that says ?Nice try,? then says: ?I?m not going to get into that. Those are deeply personal questions. You can ask.?
Mary Cheney tells Purdum that her father ?has very little tolerance for bullshit, pardon my French.? She also says that one common reaction from people who have read the manuscript of her book is ??Wow, you guys really have this close-knit, loving family,? and it always strikes me as ?Yeah, of course we do.? It was very surprising to me that people would think we didn?t.?
When Purdum asks Cheney if he is fatalistic about his heart disease, Cheney says, ?I am. I don?t even think about it most of the time. You do those things a prudent man would do, and I live with it.? Asked what he would have for breakfast at Nora?s Fish Creek Inn, his favorite pre-fishing spot in Wilson, Wyoming, Cheney responds without missing a beat: ?I?d probably have two eggs over easy, sausage and hash browns,? then hastens to add that that is not his normal breakfast. ?The day I go fishing, I get off my diet,? he says.? At a roundtable lunch with reporters a couple of years ago, two who were presï¿½ent tell Purdum that Cheney cut his buffalo steak in bite-size pieces the moment it arrived, then proceeded to salt each side of each piece.
Cheney tells Purdum that he has not changed over the years, but perhaps many of his contemporaries think he has ?because of my associations over the years, or because I came across as a reasonable guy, people have one view of me that was not necessarily an accurate reflection of my philosophy or my view of the world.?
Purdum asks Cheney if, during his ?darkest night,? he has even ?a little doubt? about the administration?s course. ?No,? he tells Purdum. ?I think we?ve done what needed to be done.? Of the debate over whether or not the administration hyped the pre-war intelligence, Cheney says, ?In the end, you can argue about the quality of the intelligence and so forth, but ... I look at that whole spectrum of possibilities and options, and I think we did the right thing.?
Cheney rejects the caricature of him as the power behind the throne, insisting, ?I think we have created a system that works for this president and for me, in terms of my ability to be able to contribute and participate in the process.? When Purdum says that the cartoon characterization of him must not be accurate, Cheney says, ?My image might be better out there, this caricature you talk about might be avoided, if I spent more time as a public figure trying to improve my image, but that?s not why I?m here.?
Purdum reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney?s motorcade varied its daily path. ?And he said, ?Yeah, we take different routes so that ?The Jackal? can?t get me,?? West tells Purdum. ?And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, ?What?s that? It?s not very roomy in here.? And [Cheney] said, ?No, because it?s a chemical-biological suit,? and he looked at it and said, ?Robin, there?s only one. You lose.??
Purdum talks with former New York Times reporter and former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, James Naughton, who asks of Cheney: ?Does he acknowledge that he is not as pleasant as he used to be?? Naughton knew Cheney as a fellow prankster during the 1976 campaign, and all but sighs in search of an explanation as to why he is so different now. ?I guess I would like to believe,? he says, ?without any evidence to support it, that coming very close to death has somehow compelled him to act as though he only has so much breath and so much life, that he?s only got so much time to accomplish what he has to do. But the public figure is nothing like the private one that I remember.?
Gerald Ford tells Purdum: ?He may have changed a bit, but that was required for the change of circumstances.? Ford, who will turn 93 in July, adds, ?Times change, and people change as a result of that.?
?If you?re looking for a change from one point to another, being vice president is sui generis,? Lynne Cheney tells Purdum. ?It?s not quite like any other job.?
The June issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and L.A. on May 3 and nationally on May 9.
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