Vice President Addresses Home State Legislature
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
As Harry Whittington was speaking in Texas, Vice President Dick Cheney was in Cheyenne, the capital of his home state of Wyoming, getting ready to address members of the state legislature. Cheney was there to promote administration policies, but to spend time with old friends and reflect on his political career. One topic he did not spend much time on was last weekend's hunting accident. From Cheyenne, NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN: Vice President Cheney almost always chooses friendly forums for his speeches, and today the Wyoming legislature was one of the friendliest.
Legislators gave Dick Cheney a long standing ovation. Cheney's return home comes at the end of one of the worst weeks of his political career, and he acknowledged it.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DICK CHENEY: It's a wonderful experience to be greeted with such warmth by the leaders of our great state. That's especially true when you've had a very long week. Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well.
ALLEN: But that was Cheney's only reference to last weekend's hunting accident. In his 20-minute speech, the vice president talked mostly about the road that led him from Wyoming to the nation's second-highest office, and the people he met along the way. He recalled today that his career in politics began here, in the Wyoming legislature, in 1965, when he was a 24-year-old intern.
CHENEY: I remember it as an important and a demanding job. You had to know every legislator, be there when they needed, you and remember how they wanted their coffee.
ALLEN: Cheney soon moved on to Washington, where he worked in Congress and then served as a White House aide in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He was elected to Congress, where he represented Wyoming for more than a decade before serving as Defense Secretary and leaving government to run the giant Halliburton Corporation. Cheney said today the values he took to Washington are the ones he learned here, in Wyoming.
CHENEY: We've held close to the ideal of the citizen legislator, and so I witnessed the common sense, the public mindedness and the spirit of good will that came, come when you bring together a group of men and women who have careers of their own, spend virtually all their time among their constituents, and live close to the land.
ALLEN: This is the second time Cheney has spoken to the Wyoming legislature. Although the governor, Dave Freudenthal, is a Democrat, Wyoming is a state dominated by Republicans. All the congressional seats and the state legislature are under GOP control. Senate president Grant Larson says Cheney recently took up legislative leaders on their long-standing invitation. And after last weekend's shooting, they had feared the visit would have to be postponed. But after the week Cheney had, Larson said Wyoming has to look good.
GRANT LARSON: People understand what hunting is all about and that there may be an accident here and there. But you get them back East and most of them have never even seen a gun, let alone gone hunting.
ALLEN: Outside of the state capitol in Cheyenne, while the vice president was speaking, a small group of protestors huddled in below zero temperatures. They were holding a banner that read, Hey, Texas, You Can Keep Him. But that's clearly a minority opinion here. Wyoming is a state in which nearly a third of the adult population hunts. Despite questions raised elsewhere about whether Cheney and his party were observing safe hunting procedures, in Wyoming many wonder what all the fuss is about.
GRANT BEEFUS: I mean, everybody who hunts has a risk of getting peppered by somebody else.
ALLEN: Grant Beefus is a Cheyenne resident who hunts quail and bigger game. He believes the news media has spent too much time on the story.
BEEFUS: Well, the guy didn't die, so, I mean, it was just an accident that somebody got hurt, not any different than a lot of other people. If two people are playing football and somebody gets their arm broke, is it a big deal?
ALLEN: After his warm reception today in Cheyenne, Cheney didn't appear to be in a hurry to leave. With his wife, Lynne, he took his time making his way through the chamber, shaking hands with legislators. And he's expected to spend the rest of the weekend at his home in Jackson Hole.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
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