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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Profile: Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Cheney is a prominent link to the first Bush presidency
When President Bush took office, Dick Cheney was being talked about as one of the most active and influential vice presidents in American history.

Then came 11 September.

In the hours that followed the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, it was Mr Cheney who was in charge in Washington while the president was stranded in Florida.

But after a few days, Mr Cheney seemed to disappear from public life, being shuttled between various "secure and undisclosed locations" - although many believe that most of the time he was at his official residence and increasingly at the White House.

The vice president is back in the political limelight, but for reasons other than the administration would want ahead of critical elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress and President Bush's ability to pursue his domestic agenda.

Mr Cheney is implicated in the wave of corporate scandals for allegedly fraudulent accounting practices carried out by an oil firm he headed before taking office.

Corporate scandals

The White House was already locked in a high-profile battle with Congress as legislators investigated how the disgraced energy firm Enron might have influenced the policies proposed by Mr Cheney's energy task force.

Enron headquarters in Houston
Mr Cheney was questioned over how Enron influenced his energy policy
The Congress watchdog decided to take the White House to court to try and force Mr Cheney to give details of his contacts with Enron, after he refused to give evidence.

His critics said that no company in the US stood to gain more from the energy policies the vice president has developed than Enron.

His connections with the energy industry were further questioned during the investigation into Enron's collapse.

The vice president was then sued by investors of Halliburton, the oil services firm that Mr Cheney headed for five years before becoming George Bush's running mate.

The lawsuit alleged that Mr Cheney and other members of the Halliburton board deceived investors.

The firm was also the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into accounting practices begun when the vice president was head of the company.

'Pragmatic hawk'

The whiff of scandal came as the administration tried to rally support at home and abroad for toppling Saddam Hussein, with Mr Cheney playing a central role.

As President Bush Senior's secretary of defence, Mr Cheney, along with Colin Powell, planned and co-ordinated the Gulf War.

Dick Cheney and Colin Powell in Saudi Arabia, 1991
Addressing the troops: Cheney earned respect during the Gulf War
He also directed operation Just Cause in Panama and stood strongly against the use of US ground troops in Bosnia in 1992.

His foreign policy experience was precisely one of the reasons why George W Bush is said to have chosen to run with him in the 2000 elections.

And the president tapped that experience this spring when it sent Mr Cheney on a trip to Europe and the Middle East in what Washington insiders believe was a mission to gather support for military action against Iraq.

Analysts say that in foreign affairs, Dick Cheney is the main White House bridge between the Pentagon and the State Department, although he probably tilts more towards the hawkish Pentagon on most matters.

He has already warned that those who harbour terrorists face "the full wrath of the United States".

However, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, analysts say Mr Cheney is aware of the limitations of military action and is said to be pragmatic about when and how to commit American forces.

Credentials

Mr Cheney's role in the administration remains somewhat of an enigma in Washington.

After the elections, he was said to be the power behind the throne. President Bush, it was said, was "in office" rather than "in power".

Political career
1969: Political staffer, Nixon administration
1975-77: Chief of staff to Gerald Ford
1978-89: Congressman
1989-93: Defence secretary
2001-to date: Vice president
Mr Cheney's health problems caused some to joke that Mr Bush was just one heartbeat away from presidency.

The vice president's health remains a concern, particularly after he had major cardiac surgery in July 2001 - coming after a series of mild heart attacks in 1978, 1984, 1988 and again during the campaign.

The true nature of Mr Cheney's power and position were questioned after 11 September.

Some believe that the vice president's low profile after the attacks was an attempt by Mr Bush's senior advisor, Karl Rove, to ensure the focus centred on the president.

But the vice president retains a strong power base, complete with his own informal mini-National Security Council.

Whatever his true position, as a veteran of previous Republican governments, Mr Cheney is still considered to bring stature, Washington experience and strong foreign policy credentials to the Bush administration.

Young politician

Born in Nebraska, Dick Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming. He won a scholarship to Yale but dropped out after a few terms and returned to Wyoming.

Mr Cheney later returned to college to get a masters at the University of Wyoming.

He became a political staffer in 1969, and did a number of jobs before being appointed as the chief of staff in President Gerald Ford's White House in 1975.

At the age of 34, he was, and still is, the youngest person to have held the position. Mr Cheney went on to become a congressman for Wyoming from 1978 to 1989.

After serving with President Bush Senior, he spent most of the next decade out of the political limelight, abandoning public life to be an executive with Halliburton in Dallas, Texas.

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