MARTY RUSSELL: Yes, but if he only had a heart

By Marty Russell

Technically, former Vice President Dick Cheney has had a change of heart. Realistically, I sincerely doubt it.
Since news of the 71-year-old Cheney’s recent heart transplant, there has been a lot of debate over whether the former VP and CEO of Halliburton deserved it or got preferential treatment. He has, after all, suffered five heart attacks and has been living for the past couple of years with an artificial heart pump. Critics say the organ should have gone to a younger person with more life yet to live. Heart transplant patients generally can expect to live 10 more years with their new hearts.
Doesn’t matter. Cheney reportedly waited 20 months, longer than the normal 12, for the transplant and apparently met all the medical criteria. But just because he now has a new, 10-ounce muscle beating in his chest doesn’t mean he now has a heart.
This is, after all, still Dick Cheney. The man who, as vice president under George W. Bush, insisted that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction despite all the evidence to the contrary and helped launch the war on Iraq where Halliburton and its subsidiaries made billions in taxpayer dollars from no-bid contracts before moving its headquarters from Texas to Dubai.
This is the same Dick Cheney who, when the Senate held hearings on Iraq war profiteering, told Sen. Patrick Leahy to, “go f— yourself.”
This is, after all, the same Dick Cheney who told then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in 2002 that federal budget “deficits don’t matter,” and then had O’Neill fired a month later when he disagreed with him.
Having a heart, even a new one, doesn’t necessarily mean, well, having a heart.
It reminds me of the story of Nick Chopper, a fictional character in a series of popular books. Chopper was a lumberjack who fell in love with a beautiful woman which drew the ire of a wicked witch.
The witch cursed Chopper’s ax so that, every time he tried to chop down a tree he chopped off one of his own limbs instead. Each time it happened Chopper replaced the limb with a metal prosthesis until finally he was all metal. But he had forgotten to give himself a heart, which he longed for.
One day Chopper accidentally stepped on an insect and squashed it. He was overcome with grief as a result of having killed it.
It was then that Chopper, later to be known in L. Frank Baum’s series of books as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” realized that, even though he didn’t have an organ called a heart beating in his chest, he had a soul and a conscience, a true heart.
If only we could transplant those.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at

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