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The networks waited. Cheney waited. And he delivered his speech.
And politics aside -- support him or not -- the vice president did what no other Republican has been able to do this year: break through the noise.
Cheney is clearly a Republican who doesn't flinch -- at a time when his party is filled with grandees who are apologizing, equivocating, and saying things like "we need to find ourselves."
On dealing with terror suspects, Cheney couldn't have been more clear: "In top secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program."
Contrast that with GOP chief Michael Steele. While appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, he was asked if he thought enhanced interrogation techniques were torture. "I have a personal opinion ... but that's not appropriate to share here," he said.
Cheney doesn't hesitate when asked for his opinion. And he doesn't care how his opinion is received.
As former Bush White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace said on the Today Show this morning, “I think we’ve established his complete magnificent indifference to his poll numbers. He doesn’t care if people approve of him politically or personally."
Guess what? His poll numbers are up. They've jumped eight points since January. His disapproval numbers have gone down three. Overall, a combined 11-point gain for the former veep.
He doesn't care. Nor does he have any political aspirations. If he did though, he could have begun his speech this morning by saying, "I'm Dick Cheney and I represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party."
Here's what he said to the American Enterprise Institute
Full text of the address follows...
Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It’s good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I’m looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.
I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don’t think I missed much.
Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I’m an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen – a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.