Cheney's heart problems date back to 1978
By Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, 03/05/01
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney, who checked himself into a hospital Monday after feeling chest pains, has had four heart attacks and a cardiac bypass operation during his long political career.
Cheney, 60, suffered heart attacks in 1978, 1984, 1988 and on Nov. 22, while the presidential election still hung in the balance. He underwent successful bypass surgery in 1988.
The Republican vice president went to George Washington University Hospital in Washington for a cardiac catheterization on Monday, which his aide Mary Matalin described as "a nonemergency precautionary procedure."
Matalin said an electrocardiogram taken at the White House before Cheney went to George Washington University Hospital was the same as one taken last Thursday.
Cheney's heart problems were a consideration even before he became George W. Bush's Republican running mate on July 24. At that time, he was given a clean bill of health by his doctors.
The Bush campaign provided the media with letters from those doctors outlining the former defense secretary's health history and concluding that he was "in excellent health" and "up to the task of the most sensitive public office."
He has repeatedly discounted the severity of his heart attacks, saying the definition of the event has changed to include even minor cardiac problems that are "no big deal."
Since Bush's Jan. 20 inauguration, Cheney has been a prominent representative of the new administration.
As recently as Sunday, Cheney made headlines with his televised comments on Iraq. He has also represented the Bush administration at a convention of conservatives and at a meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Cheney campaigned continually during the endgame of the presidential race, moving back and forth between his home in Texas to Washington as the legal and political battle played out.
While he left the lucrative life of a corporate executive to join Bush in the White House, Cheney is no stranger to Washington.
He served as defense secretary under Bush's father, former President George Bush, and in 1991 directed the U.S. military operation to expel an Iraqi occupation army from Kuwait.
He urged the first Bush administration to take an uncompromising line against Iraq after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent troops to occupy Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. Cheney's formal acceptance of the vice presidential nomination came exactly 10 years later.
Cheney seemed like the quintessential safe choice when the Texas governor picked him as his running mate. But Democrats swiftly zeroed in on controversial votes Cheney cast when he represented Wyoming in the House, including one against the release of black South African leader Nelson Mandela and others against popular gun control and environmental and education funding measures.
Cheney defended himself in his usual mild-mannered way, saying he was trying to rein in government spending when budget deficits were high. On other votes, he objected to resolutions presented without debate, he said.
Cheney was also assailed for accepting a $35 million retirement package from his previous employer, Halliburton Co., the world's largest oil field service company.
After several weeks' delay, Cheney said he would give up any stock options that remained after he took office as vice president. That would cost him around $3.5 million, a small proportion of the options he cashed.
During many years of friendship with the Bush family, Cheney was unfailingly loyal and discreet. The younger Bush tapped him to head his vice presidential search and then decided the man doing the searching was the best candidate.
Two years after leaving the government in 1993, Cheney became chief executive of Halliburton, where he earned almost $2 million last year, excluding stock options.
Energy industry analysts said Cheney used his exceptional contacts in oil-producing Middle Eastern and Asian nations, as well as domestically, to advance the company's interests.
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Jan. 30, 1941, Richard Bruce Cheney received his undergraduate and master's degrees in political science from the University of Wyoming.
He is married to the former Lynne Ann Vincent, a well-known conservative voice on cultural issues and former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Cheneys have two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.
Well-known and liked in Washington since his days as President Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff in the 1970s, Cheney served 10 years as Wyoming's only congressman, compiling a highly conservative record, including a 100 percent voting record on anti-abortion issues.