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Heart Transplants

“How about my heart?” asked the Tin Woodman.
“Why as for that,” answered Oz, “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”
— L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

New hearts are not always what they are cracked up to be. Compare the Tin Woodman from the Land of Oz with Dick Cheney from Wyoming.

Tin Man

Followers of such things know that through a series of mishaps the Tin Woodman had gone from being a human being to being a tin woodman. He wanted nothing more than a new heart and when the Tin Woodman, Dorothy and his other companions met the Wizard of Oz who was known as “Oz” he was given a new heart by Oz. As the story goes, “Oz cut a small hole in the Tin Woodman’s breast and then, “going to a chest of drawers, he took out a pretty heart, made entirely of silk and stuffed with sawdust. ‘Isn’t it a beauty’ he asked. ‘It is, indeed,’ replied the Woodman, who was greatly pleased. ‘But is it a kind heart?’ ‘Oh very!’ answered Oz. He put the heart in the Woodman’s breast and then replaced the square of tin, soldering it neatly together where it had been cut. ‘There,’ said he, ‘now you have a heart that any man might be proud of.’” As it turns out, the world was less fortunate when Dick Cheney got a new heart.


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The heart Mr. Cheney got was clearly not a kind heart and as we soon learned, there was no difference between Dick Cheney with the old heart and Dick Cheney with the new heart. (Although the recipient of a new heart, like the Tin Woodman, Mr. Cheney was more like the Wizard of Oz who the residents of Oz believed could accomplish great feats while working behind a screen without those who came in contact with him knowing that he was only a common man. When finally exposed as a fraud to Dorothy and her companions, Oz asked them not to let anyone know he was a fake. Dorothy asked him “Doesn’t anyone else know you’re a humbug?” He replied: “No one knows it but you four-and myself. I have fooled everyone so long that I thought I should never be found out. . . . Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they believe I am something terrible.” Of course Mr. Cheney was, as we all know, a humbug and something terrible. But back to his heart.)

On March 24th we learned that Mr. Cheney had gotten a new heart. We learned that he had been waiting for 20 months to get his new heart but had not been convinced he wanted it until one became available. He did not go to the Wizard of Oz for his new heart but to Jonathan S. Reiner, a heart transplant surgeon. The operation lasted from 10 AM on a Saturday until 5 PM. It took a great deal longer than the Tin Woodman’s surgery since the heart that was selected was somewhat more complex than the silk heart stuffed with sawdust that the Tin Woodman received. Many of those who learned of Mr. Cheney’s new heart entertained hope that Mr. Cheney would be transformed from the mean, constitutionally infirm vice president he had been while serving as a malevolent vice president and a man behind the screen under George W. Bush. Those who held out such hopes were in for a bitter disappointment. His new heart gives him no greater understanding of what made this country great than he had with his old heart. He demonstrated that on April 14th.

On that day, Mr. Cheney spoke for more than an hour to the Wyoming Republican Party state convention. In the course of his remarks he said that Barak Obama had been “an unmitigated disaster to the country” forgetting apparently that it was he and his boss who had lied in order to justify invading Iraq, a decision that ended up in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of U.S. troops and devastating injuries suffered by many thousands of American troops and Iraqi citizens. When the Bush administration left office the economy was an unmitigated disaster being in free fall and losing 750,000 jobs a month. Mr. Cheney showed a country how unimportant the protection of human rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution were if they seemed irrelevant to those running the country. He again defended water boarding that was extensively employed while he was in office. As he proudly said: “It produced a wealth of information. Don’t let anybody tell you the enhanced interrogation program didn’t work. It did.” According to reports that comment got him the biggest round of applause from those in attendance none of whom, it is safe to say, had ever enjoyed the experience. All that just goes to show that a new heart is no guarantee that its recipient will become a better person, even if the new heart is of a higher quality than that received by the Tin Woodman. A pity that.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at

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