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Dick Cheney's Youthful Indiscretions

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Dick Cheney's Youthful Indiscretions

Dick Cheney DWI Arrest Card

When news of George W. Bush's drunken driving arrest surfaced during the final week of the 2000 presidential campaign, Republicans tried to dismiss it as one of those "youthful indiscretions" Bush had steadfastly refused to discuss. Of course, when he got popped in Kennebunkport in 1976, Bush was 30 years old, hardly a kid.

Vice President Dick Cheney, on the other hand, could actually argue that his two DWIs came when he was young and reckless.

Court and police records obtained by The Smoking Gun show that Cheney was convicted of drunk driving twice during an eight-month period in the early 1960s in his home state of Wyoming. The two convictions came when Cheney was 21 and 22 and resulted in fines and a brief suspension of his driver's license.

On November 2, in the wake of the Bush DWI discovery, a Cheney spokesperson told reporters that the vice presidential candidate also had a rap sheet. But the Bush-Cheney campaign refused to provide any further details about the DWI busts. So TSG will now handle that chore.

Cheney first privately disclosed the arrests in 1989, after he had been nominated for Secretary of Defense. According to an account in Bob Woodward's "The Commanders," Cheney told members of the Senate Armed Services committee about the DWI arrests during a closed confirmation hearing. Cheney told the senators that he believed it would be best to publicly disclose the busts. But Armed Services committee members said there was no need for the disclosure and subsequently confirmed Cheney in a 20-0 vote.

Following the May 1991 publication of Woodward's book, there was no mention of Cheney's arrests until the brief confirmation offered by the candidate's spokesperson last November. But the vice president himself mentioned his rap sheet in an interview in the current issue (dated May 7) of The New Yorker. Cheney noted that after dropping out of Yale in early 1961, he found himself "working, building power lines, having been in a couple of scrapes with the law." The busts, he said, made him "think about where I was and where I was headed. I was headed down a bad road, if I continued on that course."

Cheney's first DWI conviction came in November 1962 when he was 21. According to this docket from Cheyenne's Municipal Court, Cheney was nailed for drunkenness and "operating motor vehicle while intoxicated." A Cheyenne Police Judge found Cheney guilty of the two charges and hit him with a 30-day suspension of his driver's license. Cheney also had to forfeit a $150 bond posted at the time of his arrest. Further information about the case--such as the defendant's blood alcohol content or whether Cheney was jailed following the bust--is unavailable since other court records from that period have been destroyed, according to Wyoming officials.

Details of Cheney's second Wyoming arrest, in July 1963, have also fallen victim to time and records destruction practices at the local Municipal Court. But a police arrest card (similar to the one that haunted Dubya) maintained by the Rock Springs Police Department shows that Cheney was fined $100 for his second DWI conviction. The card lists the charge against Cheney, who was then working as a groundman laying power lines, as "11-44," the criminal code classification for drunken driving, according to Police Chief Neil Kourbelas.

At the time of the Rock Springs arrest, Kourbelas said that local cops and judges would not have known that young Cheney was a boozing 'n driving recidivist. The police department, Kourbelas said, "wouldn't have had the ability to automatically check with other jurisdictions to find out if anyone had had prior arrests or convictions. We could have arrested Jack the Ripper back then and had no idea what he had done."

Since that second Wyoming arrest, Cheney has kept his nose clean.