POLITICS
10/21/2013 07:56 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2013

Dick Cheney Calls Tea Party The 'New Wave,' Just Like Daughter Liz

Dick Cheney was relentlessly on message Monday in his "Today Show" interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, almost as if he intended his comments to aid his daughter's nascent bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming.

The former vice president -- whose book Heart on his own history of heart disease comes out Tuesday -- refused to criticize Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) or any other aspect of the tea party movement in American politics. And he disagreed with Guthrie that there is any kind of "rift" within the Republican Party.

Instead, Cheney called the tea party a "new wave" in politics. When pressed on the wisdom of Cruz's gambit to shut down the government over opposition to Obamacare, Cheney turned and criticized President Barack Obama as a "radical."

Cheney has spoken positively about the tea party movement before, but he hasn't always been so hesitant to criticize popular figures on the right. In 2012, he said that it was "a mistake" for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to have chosen then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate. That prompted a rare public expression of disagreement from Liz Cheney, the former vice president's older daughter, who praised Palin.

Now, father and daughter are singing from the same song sheet. What's changed is that Liz Cheney is now running for office and is hoping to harness the energy of the tea party to help her defeat incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

When asked about Cruz on NBC, Dick Cheney avoided criticizing the Texas senator by saying he "represents the thinking of an awful lot of people, obviously in Texas." Then he brought up Liz Cheney's candidacy unprompted, in a subtle suggestion that she is an anti-establishment politician in the same mold as Cruz. "My own daughter is running for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming partly motivated by the concern that Washington's not working, that the system is breaking down and that it's time for new leadership," he said.

Dick Cheney also emphasized the need for new blood in the GOP -- a subtle shot at Enzi, who is 69 years old and running for his fourth term.

"The best thing I can do is stay out of the way. I'm part of that generation. My time's up," said the 72-year-old Cheney. "We really do need new talent. Here we've got a woman who's got five children, has got the drive and the energy to represent that next generation."

"We need to be passing on leadership in the party to that next generation," he said.

Another name Cheney brought up without being asked was that of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia who ran for president in 2012. Talking about the emergence of "a new generation of political leaders," he hearkened back to Gingrich's arrival in Washington as a freshman congressman after the election of 1978.

Another freshman congressman that year: Dick Cheney himself. Interestingly, Cheney's approach to politics differed dramatically from Gingrich's.

Gingrich "argued we had to quit being polite to the Democrats and go after them," Cheney wrote in his 2011 memoir, In My Time. "It fired up the troops and fed the media. It was not, however, my personal cup of tea. My style was more restrained."

According to Stephen Hayes, author of a 2007 biography of the former vice president, Cheney "was a strong believer in the legislative process, in bipartisan compromise, in working within the system; Gingrich preferred confrontation and wanted to bring fundamental change to Congress by dismantling the existing power structure."

When George W. Bush asked him to consider being his running mate, Cheney recalled in his memoir that he told Bush that he was more conservative than most people thought. "I had a reputation of being somewhat moderate, partly, I think, because I wasn't a 'bomb thrower' like some of my conservative colleagues, and partly because I got along with people all across the political spectrum," Cheney wrote.

Ironically, Liz Cheney is now trying to tar Enzi as a moderate because he is the kind of politician her father was, at least in Congress: one who keeps a low profile and gets along with Democrats.

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