Shirley Anne Warshaw


On her book The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney

Cover Interview of June 21, 2009


The co-presidency of Bush and Cheney was based on a division of labor, with Bush focused on the faith-based presidency and Cheney on most else.

Bush built his presidency on creating a moral and civil society, words which he frequently used in describing the central goal of his administration.  At the heart of his moral and civil society was ensuring that children had quality education – hence his promotion of the “No Child Left Behind” bill – and that the faith-based organizations, particularly churches, be central to federal delivery of social services.  As an evangelical Christian, Bush was deeply engaged in using his religious tenets to serve as the tenets of public policy in building a moral and civil society.  He prohibited federal funding for stem cell research, abortion and abortion counseling and ensured federal funding for abstinence education in public high schools, religious counseling for troubled teens and for prisoners, and used religious litmus tests in federal hiring.

While Bush focused on his limited agenda of a faith-based government, Cheney essentially focused on everything else.  Cheney’s control of the hiring process during the transition allowed him to build the government that protected an anti-regulatory business-oriented government.  But Cheney’s legacy was even more substantial, for it was Cheney who crafted the imperial presidency that allowed Bush to determine the constitutionality of laws (addressed through signing statements).  And it was Cheney appointees that allowed Bush to move forward a view that the president had almost unlimited constitutional power to protect and defend the nation in any way he believed was necessary – including the use of torture.

I hope that The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney sheds new light on the limited agenda that George W. Bush had as president and the far larger agenda that Dick Cheney had as vice president – as well as the tools Cheney employed to move that agenda forward.  To some extent Bush was a willing partner in the co-presidency.  However, I doubt that Bush fully understood the degree to which Cheney stacked the administration with his own loyalists, particularly the positions in key legal offices.  Without the legal decisions rendered by Cheney’s appointees, Bush would not have pursued the aggressive national security positions that Cheney championed.

© 2009 Shirley Anne Warshaw