With his Cabinet selections and Mike Pence as vice president, Donald Trump is off to a “pretty good start” as president, according to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“You go down through the list and it’s a very impressive Cabinet,” Cheney said Monday morning at the Van Wezel Peforming Arts Hall. “I think they will all get confirmed. I look at the current set of circumstances, I think they are off to a pretty good start.”
Cheney, who said he voted for Trump, spoke on a number of topics ranging from the 45th president to the Obama administration to Iraq, all a part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series.
Due to what Cheney called “the failings of the Obama administration,” the military needs to be a priority.
“One of the reasons I supported him was because I thought he was strong on defense,” said Cheney, who is a former secretary of Defense.
Cheney served as President George W. Bush’s vice president from 2001 and 2009, after earlier public service stints as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, the U.S. representative from Wyoming and secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush. He was head of the Halliburton oil field services firm when the younger Bush tapped him to be his running mate. He currently lives in Wyoming.
“I think that there is an awful lot to be done in the international area,” Cheney said during a media briefing before his lecture. “He’s going to have a full-time job just repairing the damage that’s been done to our military, to our relationships with our traditional friends and allies around the world.”
With a growing threat and the United States’ diminished capability to deal with that threat, Trump’s first priority going forward should be rebuilding the military, according to Cheney.
“That’s where I would want to see him focused,” he said.
This may be the most dangerous time since the end of the Cold War, Cheney said.
“I’m worried,” he said. “If I look out around the world at the potential threats, I think we are in a very dangerous time. ...We’ve got this problem that President Trump is going to face from day one and that is the threat levels are going up. The dangers are increasing and our capability to deal with them has gone down because of the way the Obama administration has operated for the last eight years. He’s got to fix that.”
Since Trump has not been in political office prior to president, Pence “fills in those slots where Trump doesn’t have any experience,” Cheney said.
“Nobody arrives with a complete package,” he said. “I think Mike Pence is on his way to becoming a very significant player.”
With the election of Trump, the shape of the Republican Party going forward will be affected — but how much and in exactly what direction has yet to be seen, Cheney said.
“He tapped into a segment of the electorate that obviously was dissatisfied in both parties, and didn’t have much good to say about the Republicans or Democrats,” Cheney said. “I think he brought in some new voters to vote on the Republican line and that’s how he won the election. So does that change the party? Yes, to some extent.”
As Trump begins his first full week in office, the real test will be how well he does in articulating the policies and getting Congress and the country to support him, Cheney said.
“I’m sure there will probably be times when I disagree with him, and that’s to be expected,” he said.
Prior to the lecture, a portrait of Cheney completed by Ringling College of Art & Design senior Jeffrey Nguyen was unveiled. It took the 21-year-old 60 hours to complete the oil painting.
“I was speechless,” Nguyen said of presenting Cheney with the portrait. “It’s an honor to paint such a huge figure in our country.”