Before they reached their highest points of office, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were young White House staffers. Young may not be the appropriate word, Rumsfeld had served six years in Congress and Cheney had been working in Washington since 1969. By the time Gerald Ford was in office, Rumsfeld had graduated to Chief Of Staff and Cheney his top assistant.
When Ford nominated Rumsfeld to be the country’s 13th Secretary of Defense, Cheney slid right into the role of Chief of Staff. A Washington Post story at the time spoke of a soon-to-be-storied relationship between the two men, and how Cheney would fill Rumsfeld’s shoes.
From Ghosts of DC:
That’s because Richard Bruce Cheney, who officially replaced Donald Rumsfeld as the No. 1 White House staff member, has been preparing for his new job for a long time. As Rumsfeld’s assistant, and alter ego, he was totally trusted by his boss and frequently substituted for Rumsfeld in chairing senior staff meetings and briefing the President.
Ever since Rumsfeld reorganized the White House staff in 1974 the word has been clear to those dealing with Mr. Ford: Cheney speaks for Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld speaks for the President.
Unlike Rumsfeld, a former congressman who has long been suspected of having presidential ambitions, Cheney is not considered politically ambitious. He is both an academic and a businessman, but his chief flair is thorough and unremitting staff work which has earned him a reputation for competence within the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Decades later, the two men would be reviled as villains of the Bush administration, following decades of power in Washington D.C.