JACKSON, Wyo.— Former Vice President Dick Cheney opened up to Dr. Sanjay Gupta on “60 Minutes” Sunday, revealing for the first time the intimate details of his struggle with the frailties of the human heart.
“I’ve often been compared to Darth Vader,” admitted Cheney, “but you’d get a much better sense of me by watching ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ in reverse.
“The problem was that my heart started out three sizes too big. I just couldn’t go on living like that.” In fact, Cheney’s original heart—which measured about half a foot wide when it was replaced at age 71—was about twice the size of a normal human heart.
The consequences of such a severe condition weighed heavily on the vice president throughout his time in the Bush administration. In addition to memory loss and impaired decision-making, he risked waking “up every morning with a smile…a sense of wonderment. Nothing short of magical.”
“‘Magical, wonderment’—your words. Those aren’t words you typically hear, or expect to hear from you,” Gupta remarked.
“Disgusting, I know,” said Cheney, “which is why I preemptively offered a letter of resignation to the President on March 28, 2001, in case I was ever paralyzed with human emotion and rendered unable to make the heartless decisions expected of me in office.”
Cheney tried to keep any signs of empathy at bay by focusing on his many cold-hearted accomplishments, like sending the country to a poorly planned war under false pretenses, instigating illegal wiretapping, and condoning enhanced interrogation.
But as much as he fought it, “All the human suffering around me—much of it caused by me—eventually started seeping in. My heart sank; my eyes began to leak salt water.”
To preserve what inhumanity was left in him, the vice president decided to undergo a risky transplant, in which he received an artificial heart designed by the Defense Department to be completely impervious to empathy.
While Cheney’s cardiologist—and coauthor of his new autobiography, “Heart”—is pleased with the transplant’s success, he continues to worry that terrorists could wirelessly hack into his implant and assassinate the former vice president. “Dick would get the last maniacal laugh, though, as there’s virtually nothing human left in him to kill.”