Then (Lynne Cheney) said, “How could you forget the little eight-year-old girl (Liz) who campaigned with us and for you in 1978? How could you not support her?” I said, “You don’t understand. I’ve known Mike Enzi for over 35 years ...
... And then Lynne Cheney said, “Oh, I’ve heard enough of that and I don’t want to hear anymore. I just want to tell you something, ‘Shut up – just shut up – shut up.’” Three times. I wandered off – stunned.
Statement to the Cody Enterprise from Al Simpson, former U.S. Senator, Wyo. (Retired) and wife Ann.
“The time has come” the walrus said, “to speak of many things” – that is a great line from Alice in Wonderland, and it sure fits here because we are just as puzzled and confounded as Alice would have been at the maelstrom of babble we have heard recently.
First, this is not about Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney and I have known each other for over 45 years. He is a dear and loyal friend who I would protect and be loyal to the end of my days. I have proved that trait many a time for him, and he has done the same for me. We have campaigned for each other each and every time we ran – and neither of us ever lost an election! We have been in the trenches, we’ve been carpet bombed, shot at and missed, shot at and hit, abused, trampled, been both victims and victorious, and I would lay my life down for him. So indeed, it is not about Dick. It is about Lynne and Liz Cheney. So hang on tight because you are going to get some clear and true facts without rumor and innuendo, or any accompanying B.S. and mush.
When somebody tells me to “Shut up” then it’s time for me to say to them, “Put up!” Let’s run the projector back a few days. You may recall my remarks in the New York Times before Liz Cheney announced. I meant them. And before her formal announcement, she called me saying in effect, “I hope you won’t say the same things when I announce that you said before.” And I said, “Oh? Why not?” She said, “I didn’t like it and I hope you’ll say something different.” I said, “Like what?” And she said, “Just say, ‘It’s going to be a spirited race.’” I said “I don’t think I’ll say that.” But she continued to cajole and work on me for me to say something else that she wanted. I was rather appalled at that but we had a cordial conversation and she asked me to tell her what I had heard about her, and I told her, much to her irritation – at least as to one aspect – and I told her what negatives people have said about me, and she said, “I agree. I have heard that.” It ended on a cordial note. I said, “I think you’re headed into a really tough race. The people who care for you now do that because of the admiration for your parents and the high regard in which they, and your whole family, are held in Wyoming – but when you get into the real fray, it will be a whole different ballgame. Believe it.”
And so when Mike and Liz did their nearly simultaneous announcements I was besieged to comment and I said simply, “I care deeply about them both and I have nothing more to say.” That seemed to last until the evening of Sept. 13 at the University of Wyoming. At a previous Art Museum Gala at the University of Wyoming, Ann and I had offered an auction item of “Dinner with Al & Ann Simpson at U.W.” FMC Corporation purchased that auction item and decided to have the occasion on Sept. 13 in the Wildcatter Suites at War Memorial Stadium. FMC also chose to honor a remarkably courageous woman named Margaret Parry who is a cancer survivor – as Al is – for her work with Cowboys Against Cancer. I understand that Margaret wished to invite certain guests of her own. One of those guests was Liz Cheney and her dear daughter Elizabeth whom we have known since she entered upon the earth. Know that Margaret Parry serves as the State Finance Chairwoman of Liz Cheney’s U.S. Senate campaign. Liz and her daughter were in the elevator with us headed to the event and Liz said, “I have a celebrity football and would hope you would sign it.” I said, “What’s it for?” There was no response. I signed it.
Several FMC people came up to me and said, “We are terribly embarrassed. We didn’t realize this might be seen as a political event – and many of us are supporting Mike Enzi.” I said, “That happens.” (There were other dignitaries in the room and I noted that they did not sign the football.) And then I thought to myself, “What also happens is that on more than a few occasions in my political life I have signed a basketball or a football or a baseball and later found it ended up at auction somewhere, maybe with a charity or a group that I didn’t agree with.” I said to Ann, “I think I’ll go over and take my name off that ball.” Ann said, “Let me go do that. You visit.” She went over and said to Elizabeth (Liz’s daughter), “I need to remove our names from that football. We are supporting Enzi and if this should ever be an auction item that would not be good.” Liz then arrived and said, “This is not going to be auctioned.” And Ann said, “We know that these things are often used as auction items and we don’t want that done. And I would wish Al’s name be removed because we are supporting Mike Enzi.” This was the first inkling to her that Ann and I were supporting Mike Enzi. It did not go well then. Margaret Parry then came over and said, “What’s going on here?” And I said, “I want to take my name off the ball for it might be misused, for we’re supporting Mike Enzi. This may well go for some kind of political event.” Margaret said, “Well it won’t,” and said, “Well it has that appearance.”
Neither Ann nor I were in any way “rude” or crude to Liz’s daughter, yet I certainly was specific about removing my name from the ball. Ann then sat next to Margaret Parry a few minutes later and told her how many times we had done such a thing as signing any kind of a possible auction item, only to find that the same object sometimes came back to embarrass or concern us. Margaret said, “I hadn’t realized that. I now do understand.” She and Ann understood each other perfectly and Margaret came to me to say she was sorry it all happened. I said, “Thanks for hearing us.”
I then spoke at the event and praised Margaret for her extraordinary work in the creation of Cowboys Against Cancer and told her that I too was a cancer survivor and how much that meant to many of us and how I admired her for the hundreds of thousands of dollars she had raised over the years. I also stated in my remarks that one of my greatest pleasures in political life was serving with Dick Cheney and Malcolm Wallop as we worked with and collaborated with Democratic Governors Ed Herschler and Mike Sullivan for the betterment of Wyoming without thinking of partisan politics or “hard line” things. So now please close that chapter.
The next chapter: Now fast forward the projector to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Patrons Ball on the night of Sept. 21. While I was standing at the edge of the reception area prior to the dinner, Lynne Cheney came forward to me with a drink in hand and said, “I can’t believe how you embarrassed my granddaughter and Liz at that event in Laramie.” I said, “That was not my intent. My intent was to remove my name from a football. I had no idea for what purpose it might be used to raise money. I didn’t want it to be a political event.” She then said something to the effect, “You know that that wouldn’t have happened. That wasn’t true.” And I said, “Well it sure has happened to me before.”
Then she said, “How could you forget the little eight-year-old girl (Liz) who campaigned with us and for you in 1978? How could you not support her?” I said, “You don’t understand. I’ve known Mike Enzi for over 35 years. Ann and I heard him speak at a Wyoming Jaycees’ convention in Cody while he was president of that organization. It was an inspirational speech and when he returned to our table I said, “Have you ever thought of running for political office?” And he said, “No.” I said, “I don’t even know what party you’re in but you ought to get in the game. Anybody with a thoughtful and articulate message like yours should be more involved in our state.” He certainly went on to do just that. He became Mayor of Gillette and helped them through their most troubling times of growth, then he was a member of the Wyoming Legislature and when I retired in 1996 he ran for my seat along with eight other persons and he was the one nominated to succeed me.
All during those intervening years we counseled together, visited, enjoyed each other, collaborated, all hopefully for the benefit of the state and the country.” And then Lynne Cheney said, “Oh, I’ve heard enough of that and I don’t want to hear anymore. I just want to tell you something, “Shut up – just shut up – shut up.”” Three times. I wandered off – stunned. I went back to my table, told my family (who were my guests) what had occurred. They were also shocked.
In the course of the dinner, Phil Perry (Liz’s husband) came over to me and said, “Al, I understand what happened there. I am very sorry about that and we will work all that out.” And I said, “I surely hope so. It was a very unpleasant time.” He said, “Just know that we will work all that out.” A few minutes later Dick Scarlett came to our table. He is Liz’s statewide campaign chairman and I said, “The candidate’s mother really laid it on me a minute ago. She told me to “Shut up.” Dick said, “Oh no,” and grimaced. I said, “Well it happened.” He said, “Well, we’ll get all that straightened out.” Then across the room I saw Dick Cheney come in, just back from the One-Shot Antelope Hunt and I said, “Ann let’s go over and see him.” We went over, had the usual hugs and he was telling me about the One-Shot Hunt and his participation and I said, “Maybe you’ve heard what’s happened this evening. I don’t want that to interfere in any way with our relationship.” He said, “I hear that.” We talked cordially about the fun of the hunt because we are both Past Shooters of that event. That’s the last of my experiences and feelings of the evening except the ones that are still left hard in my gut.
In public life I have been called everything – and that goes with the territory. It’s a contact sport. I’ve been called fool, idiot, boob, bonehead, dink, slob, greenie, soot-covered slob, all the rest – and that is “fair,” believe it or not, in politics. But what is not “fair” in my mind – and never has been – is when someone tries to distort who I am – as a person – and that was done on that evening of Sept. 21. In all of my 35-40 years of public life in Wyoming, I’ve never been called one particularly offensive name – and that is, a liar. And this is what Lynne Cheney said in her statement about this sad evening, and I quote her: “As to the story posted on Facebook I have to admit I am at a bit of a loss. That simply did not happen.” And that twisted comment is one damn bald-faced lie and I have had a belly full of it! I have never been called a liar before and it sure as hell won’t work this time. Now I know folks can go into the old pitch of “he said, she said” and so I’ll just leave it to the good people of Wyoming to know who is telling the truth here. I lay my reputation flat on the line before my fellow Wyomingites who know Ann and me, but I sure don’t have to take that guff from anyone – whenever – whoever – ever!
And if other folks want to keep this ping pong ball bouncing back and forth in the air, have a go at it, but this is where I’m coming from, and now I’ll get back to work on much more important “stuff” and that is, working with Democrat Erskine Bowles to see how the hell we can get Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate to drop their harsh and nasty partisanship and work together as citizens of the United States instead of slapping each other around simply for Party advantage. Let them pull together, not pull apart – and realize that they are not just members of a singular political party but Americans first – and always!
FROM ANN SIMPSON:
When Al ran for the U.S. Senate I knew he could take care of himself. He would get into some pretty tense situations and bat things around and I would just stay out of it. But when our son Colin ran for a statewide race and he would be criticized it did upset me. I can understand fully how Lynne would come to the side of her daughter Liz in this situation. That’s how a mother feels. We are a little different than men who choose to get into this combat zone.
If Mike weren’t in this one, we would be behind Liz 100%. We know her as a wonderful, bright, capable and organized daughter, wife and mother. I admire her for her care of her children while she has succeeded in so many ways. She had a great example in her own mother.