Lynne Cheney: James Madison Deserves More Appreciation

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 04:57 PM

By Joe Battaglia and Bill Hoffmann

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Of all of America's founding fathers, James Madison is perhaps the most underappreciated and least celebrated, says former second lady of the United States Lynne Cheney, who is hoping to shed a positive light on the country's fourth president.

Cheney, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered," told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on NewsmaxTV that Madison's legacy has been unfairly tarnished since the 19th century.

"His reputation took a turn for the worse when Henry Adams wrote about his administration," Cheney said, "and ever since then, even though he is at least as much as George Washington the man who was indispensable to the founding of this country, even though he was father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, first president to take the country into war under the Constitution, people don't know much about him.

"What they do know isn't as favorable as it should be. This is your man. If you want to find out why the founders believed that limited government was important, if you want to know why the founders believed that low debt was important, this is the fellow to know about."

Cheney, who has written 12 books, said she thinks Madison has been superseded by other figures of the time, notably Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, because of his more stoic persona.

"Washington would lose his temper, Jefferson was sort of this interesting poetic fellow who had such a way with words, Hamilton was a little bit hysterical at all times," Cheney explained. "Madison was the calm, cerebral politician. In other words, he was both a philosopher and the man who knew how to get things done," she said Tuesday.

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Instrumental in Madison's ability to deliver was the influence of his wife, Dolly Madison, whom Cheney considers to be the former president's "perfect match, in many ways."

"They sustained each other over long lives, but she was also a perfect political match for him," Cheney said. "She understood the importance of bringing people together in great convivial gatherings at their house on F Street.

"He might sort of stay in the corner and talk to people as they came over and indulged in serious conversation, but Dolly would make everyone happy. She shared a snuff box with Henry Clay, she wore elaborate costumes, she made everyone feel so good about both Madisons, and this was extremely useful in a time when the congressional caucus picked the nominees for president.

"So, Madison had some competition from George Clinton of New York, but no competition when it came to how the members of the Congress regarded him, not only for his own spectacular performance on the floor and in committee, but for the great hospitality that he and Dolly offered them.

"It was miserable to be a congressman in those days. You lived in a boarding house, and one said you were stupefied like bears from talking politics all the time. So Madison, by bringing people together, won himself a lot of points."

Cheney, who began writing the book in 20008, said that she was first inspired to delve into Madison's presidency on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, when she and her husband, then Vice President Dick Cheney, were forced to evacuate the White House after the terrorist attack on Washington.

"It certainly brought home to us on the night of Sept. 11 when we took the helicopter off the South Lawn how perilous a time it was," she said. "The last time Washington had been under attack the way it was on Sept. 11 was during the War of 1812, when Madison was president and the British burnt the Capitol in 1814.

"Madison was such a good president through that. He was calm, imperturbable. He was 63 years old and he must have spent 60 hours on horseback that weekend. He even went out to the scene of the battle. So, he was a great commander in chief as well as a great founder of this country."

In another Newsmax interview on Tuesday, Cheney said that Hillary Clinton will definitely run for president in 2016 but that the GOP could offer a female candidate such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to take her on.

"She's definitely running. She is a sure-on favorite for the Democratic nomination," Cheney told "The Steve Malzberg Show'' on Newsmax TV.

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"But there are a lot of questions to be answered. Benghazi is a big one. She was the sitting secretary of state when our ambassador and . . . three others were killed in a terrorist attack by a group associated with al-Qaida.

"She attributed it to a video and . . . later said, what does it matter? That video of 'what difference does it make?' . . . will haunt her."

While the GOP has many formidable members who Cheney likes in the next White House race, for the moment, all are men. But she says that can easily change.

"At this point, there are just so many fellows out there I like. We have no women at the top of our list this year, but there are some coming along," she said.

"Susana Martinez, [the governor] of New Mexico, oh, she is terrific! So, we've got a good bench, and I'll be interested to see how it works."

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