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Remarks by President George W. Bush at the Bust Unveiling of Vice President Richard B. Cheney
EMANCIPATION HALL, U.S. CAPITOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Thank you, please be seated. Thank you for the warm welcome. Lynne, and all the Cheney family, I’m delighted to be here. I must confess, I’m somewhat reluctant to come back to Washington. Last time I showed up, I was hanged at the White House. (Laughter.) This time, I’ve returned only to find my Vice President getting busted at the Capitol. (Laughter.)
Really appreciate you being here, Vice President [Biden]. Thank you for coming. I want to thank Paul Ryan for his leadership. He’s trying out for the Abraham Lincoln look-alike contest. (Laughter and applause.)
I’m thrilled to be with Mitch McConnell. When Dick was President of the Senate, Mitch was the Minority Leader. As the Majority Leader, Mitch is really in charge now. As a matter of fact, he assured me that Dick’s bust would be prominently displayed in an undisclosed location. (Laughter.)
Orrin [Hatch], it’s great to be with you again. Thank you for your continued service. And of course Roy Blunt, who organized this event.
William Behrends is the sculptor; I can’t wait to see what it looks like, William. This reminds me of the time someone did one of me and I looked like Alfred E. Neuman.
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to meet a number of Dick’s predecessors. I’ve known one of them my whole life. (Laughter.) Last week I told Mother and Dad that I was coming here the bust unveiling. Dad perked up, and he said, “Send my best regards to old Iron-Ass!” (Laughter and applause.)
Dick, that is indeed a badge of honor. (Laughter.) The 43rd Vice President – and the 41st President – asked me to give you his heartfelt congratulations. He and mom join us all in thanking you for your selfless service to our country over the years.
Dick is a man of the West, as people have mentioned. I find it interesting that was the son of a Soil Conservation Service employee. That he laid power lines for a living before he got his degree from the University of Wyoming – after he got kicked out of Yale. (Laughter.) Dick first came to this town in the late ‘60s as a Ph.D. student working on his dissertation, which probably explains the special affection that Dick has always attracted from the world of academia. (Laughter.)
As others have mentioned, he worked in the capital – and in other words, all his experience mattered a lot when I asked him to be the head of my vice presidential search committee. As he likes to tell people, if you ever get asked to chair such a committee, do it. (Laughter.) The truth is, I knew all along that Dick Cheney had the character, integrity, and judgment that I wanted and needed in a running mate. He had the experience to step in as Commander in Chief if I were to get hit by a bus – or choke on a pretzel. (Laughter.)
I am fortunate that Dick Cheney agreed to serve as Vice President, and so is our country. For eight consequential years, I benefited from his wise counsel. He was a principled and trusted advisor on the most difficult questions facing our country. He was an effective advocate on Capitol Hill. He did an exceptional job discharging his duties as the President of the Senate. Every single time Dick cast a vote, we won. (Laughter.) And although he didn’t spend much time speaking on the floor, he managed to convey a lot in a few words. (Laughter.) Just ask Senator Leahy. (Laughter.)
People ask, do I miss Washington? The answer is, not really. I loved our time up here, but I’m happy to be home. I do miss some things, though. I miss saluting those who wear the uniform. And I miss my friends. Dick Cheney is one of those friends. I always looked forward to our weekly lunches. I could always count on him to take on any tough assignment. And I could always trust that the advice he offered was given with our country’s best interests at heart.
Dick became acting president for two hours and five minutes in July of 2007 while I was undergoing an undisclosed medical exam. (Laughter.) He wrote the only document ever signed by an acting president – a letter to his grandchildren. In classic Dick Cheney fashion, he offered them a crisp piece of good advice: to always strive to do what is right. For eight years, Dick stood by my side, and always did what was right for our Nation. I could not have asked for a better Vice President than Dick Cheney. He is a good man who loves his country and really loves his family. Laura and I are proud to call Dick, Lynne, and their wonderful daughters our friends. And I am glad that his likeness will be an everlasting presence in these halls of democracy. Thank you.