CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney can be a polarizing figure even six years out of office.
The Wyoming State Bar invited Cheney, a prominent Republican with deep Wyoming ties, to be keynote speaker at its annual convention next week.
Some lawyers are objecting — both to Cheney’s selection and to how the bar announced his appearance.
The state bar is a quasi-governmental entity that administers the legal profession using some taxpayer money. In its announcement of Cheney’s speech, it published an unedited biography submitted by Cheney in which he criticized President Barack Obama, saying he weakened the United States’ security posture.
The biography submitted by Cheney noted that he and former President George W. Bush left office in January 2009.
“Shortly thereafter, President Obama began to dismantle the security policies that had kept the nation safe,” the Cheney biography stated. “His policy decisions have led to a reversal of the gains America made in the war on terror in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and a weakening of America across the globe.”
Sharon Wilkinson, executive director of the state bar, said Cheney’s office provided the biographical information and that the bar ran it without editing it.
The latest edition of the state bar magazine, Wyoming Lawyer, featured an apology from the bar for running Cheney’s material.
“Certain remarks that appeared in Vice President Cheney’s biography in the annual meeting registration materials have prompted expressions of concern from several members who viewed those comments as inappropriate for a Wyoming State Bar publication,” said the editor’s note in the magazine. It said the bar would re-examine its longstanding practice of running speakers’ biographical materials without editing them.
Wilkinson said the bar heard from a handful of lawyers who said they wouldn’t attend the convention because of its choice of Cheney as keynote speaker. “And as you can imagine, many are thrilled with our choice and are looking forward to attending,” she said.
Cheyenne lawyer and Democratic state legislator Mary Throne is among those who say they won’t attend.
“Obviously, I have a lot of respect for the office of vice president and his service to Wyoming,” Throne said of Cheney. “It does seem an odd choice for a bar banquet. Traditionally, it’s somebody with a legal background, and not someone who’s so active in politics, frankly. So, I do not plan on attending the banquet.”
William McKellar, a Cheyenne lawyer, is past president of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association. He said there was an active online discussion among association members about the choice of Cheney.
“A lot of the attorneys that were members of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association expressed disappointment, concern, whatever, regarding Dick Cheney’s appearance at the Wyoming State Bar feeling that it was inappropriate,” McKellar said.
“I took exception to those comments,” McKellar said. “I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool Dick Cheney supporter. On the other hand, I think he’s a great American and has done a great service for the United States and the state of Wyoming, and I think it’s totally appropriate and proper for Vice President Cheney to come and speak at an association such as the Wyoming State Bar Convention.”
McKellar said he believes that if Obama were coming to address the convention, “there would have been no objections raised whatsoever.”
Riverton lawyer Jeff Stanbury said he believes the state bar had the best of intentions in inviting Cheney to speak.
“I fully recognize the state bar’s desire to have such a high-profile speaker, particularly from our state,” Stanbury said, adding that no one should be prevented from speaking on the basis of their political views.
“What I do take issue with is the statement in the biography making a declaration which is very debatable as though it is fact and present it as though it’s on behalf of the state bar and its members who are part of that association,” Stanbury said.
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