Retired U.S. Senator Al Simpson has too many friends in high places. Simpson refuses to choose between close friends George Herbert Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, and others. He was at his home in Cody this week when he talked about it.
Al and Ann Simpson were getting ready for a trip to Dallas. He interrupted his packing, to talk about friendships, among other things. His friendship with George H.W. Bush is a long one.
In 1988, Simpson was the second most powerful Republican in the Senate: the Whip, or Assistant Republican Leader in the Senate, when George Bush, Sr., asked him to join him in his Presidential Candidacy, as Vice President.
Simpson remembered, “Yeah he did.”
He said, “I called him and I said, ‘George, take me off the list.’ I said, ‘Ann and I have been thinking about it and we don’t want to do any of that. You’re wonderful to think of me’, and he’s not saying anything.”
Simpson laughed as he recalled, “I said,’George, you’re supposed to be saying, ‘Al, you can’t do that’ and you’re not saying anything. And we joked and laughed and he said, ‘Look, I hear you. But don’t say anything, because the only juice at the convention will be, who will be my vice president.’”
Dan Quayle got the job. Simpson remained in the Senate, and Bush became the 41st president of the United States. Shortly after he took office, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attacked Kuwait.
Bush responded with a coalition of dozens of nations: in Operation Desert Shield in 1990, and Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The war was over by the end of February.
Hussein’s troops literally ran from the coalition forces. Some expected Bush to take out the dictator, as well. He did not.
Simpson said, “And toward the end as we crushed the second largest army in the world, and they were jumping out of their armored personnel carriers, and their tanks and all of their equipment, just running, just running away from the Allied Forces, and hollering, ‘Vive Bush. We love Bush. Bush.’ And then what were they getting in return, just a shatter of arms and legs, cause the Allies were just shooting the trucks.
And Bush said, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t war. This is a shooting gallery. This has nothing to do with war. These guys are cowards, whatever they are, they’re fleeing, they’re going back. They’re in full speed, and all we’re doing is dive bombing them, and shooting them with tanks from the side.’
He says, ‘Cut it off. We’re not going to go to Bagdad.’
And other people said, ‘What a mistake. Well, you can draw your own conclusion on that one.’”
Bush’s Secretary of Defense then was another Wyomingite: Dick Cheney. Cheney went on to serve as vice-president to the President’s son, George W. Bush, from 2001 to 2009. After the attacks on 9-11, the 43rd President of the United States led another coalition into an invasion of Iraq in 2003, to remove Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In his recent biography, the Senior Bush criticized Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield. Cheney is a close friend of Simpson's. So, when asked about Bush’s comments about Cheney, Simpson refused to choose sides.
He reasoned, “George Bush has made his comments about Dick Cheney. He was asked by the author, ‘did you want to leave this in the book?’, and apparently he said, ‘yes’. Same with Rumsfield. I don’t know Rumsfield well. I sure as hell know Dick Cheney and so I care very much for him and his family.
So, I’m going to leave whatever George said and his views were, and his reasons were. Maybe the book discloses that. I haven’t read the book.”
But, when it came to Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz Cheney, Simpson had to choose sides. She announced her candidacy for Senator Mike Enzi’s seat in 2013.
Once again, Simpson had a friend in a high place. He would not go against Mike Enzi.
Simpson recalled, “A little-rugged patch there when Liz ran against Mike Enzi, because I had urged Mike Enzi to get into politics. I’ve known him many, many years and I think he’s a wonderful man and so is Liz. And I said, ‘When you get ready, except for this one, why, let us know.’ “
Cheney withdrew from the Senate race in early 2014, citing family health problems.
Now that U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis has announced she’ll retire, Simpson thinks Liz Cheney will run for Lummis’ congressional seat. And, he plans to back her if she does.
“She’s an amazing gal. She’s very bright and she’s ready, and I think she’ll run. I don’t know who would be running against her but she would be aces high and Ann and I feel that same way.”
And so it goes when you have so many friends in high places.