The news that former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent a heart transplant procedure yesterday will be, no doubt, greeted with jokes, sniping about his age (at 71, he is near the upper limit for such an operation) and rehearsals of the laundry list of conspiratorial accusations that have always been thrown in his direction from the far left. Though we have grown use to seeing our leaders demonized by their opponents, no public servant in our time has been subjected to as much ill tempered imprecation as Dick Cheney. Yet throughout his long career Cheney has risen above such foolishness to compile an enviable record of achievement.

The power of popular culture is such that the mere mention of Cheney’s name is enough to conjure up images of Darth Vader-like villains and puppet-masters pulling the strings on a vast empire of evil right-wing minions. This is a tribute to the ability of the political left to manipulate opinion. His critics made him the whipping boy for all the second guesses about the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policies. Cheney’s unapologetic approach to politics and to the causes to which he served made him the ideal target for such smears. But the truth was simple and readily understood by Americans who were not deceived by liberal conventional wisdom. Dick Cheney is a man who dedicated his life to serving his country, safeguarding its liberties and national defense.

Over the last two years as Cheney’s health worsened, his public appearances and statements were few and far between. As we now know, he had been waiting for a possible heart transplant for 20 months. During this time, we have missed his voice of wisdom and common sense. Though Cheney, whose career in public service stretches back to the 1970s, has earned the right to relax and to leave the battle of ideas to others, we pray that his surgery not only allows him long life but the strength to return to the fray. Though no man is irreplaceable, Cheney has a special place in the hearts of conservatives and others who value his ability to cut through the nonsense and articulate the principles of limited government as well as his vision of America’s necessary role in defending the values and the security of the West against the forces of totalitarianism and radical Islam.

Dick Cheney may not have been willing to stoop to win the applause of the chattering classes but his heart was always in the right place when it came to defending America. Let us hope that his new heart will ensure that he will be with us for many years to come. Our hearts as well as our prayers are with him and his family.

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