Bush, Cheney meet for first time since leaving office
Former President George W. Bush and his former vice president, Dick Cheney, got together Thursday for the first time since they left office in January 2009.
The meeting took place at Cheney’s house in McLean, Virginia, just three days after the former vice president suffered a mild heart attack and was hospitalized overnight. An ABC News camera captured the moment.
“Mr. President, welcome,” Cheney said as Bush stepped from the back of a sport utility vehicle.
“Looking good,” Bush said.
“Holding up alright,” Cheney replied.
“Looking good,” the former president said again as the two shook hands warmly.
“Could be worse,” Cheney said.
The meeting came on the eve of a gathering of Bush administration alumni in Washington.
Both men had been scheduled to attend the session, but Cheney, 69, had to withdraw because of the heart attack, his fifth since age 37 and his first since shortly before becoming vice president in 2001.
Bush called Cheney at the hospital to wish him well and when it became clear the former vice president would not be able to make the alumni reunion, they arranged to meet separately.
Bush has remained largely out of the public eye since leaving office.
But Cheney has been a public and vocal apologist for the administration, especially in its conduct of the war against al Qaeda, the handling of prisoners taken during the conflict and the decision to go to war in Iraq.
He has been aggressive about challenging President Barack Obama, telling conservative Republicans last week in Washington that the Democratic leader would be a “one-term president.”
The relationship between Bush and Cheney reportedly soured toward the end of their eight years in office after the president decided not to issue a full pardon to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff.
Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice during an investigation to determine who told the news media that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative.
Plame’s identity leaked as the Bush administration tried to discredit her husband, former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to justify the Iraq war.
Libby never served his prison sentence because Bush commuted it, but the president reportedly resisted Cheney’s pressure during the closing months of the administration to issue a full pardon.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Cheney listens as Bush discusses the transition to a new administration following the November 2008 election)