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Cheney shows vigor at convention

Former Vice President Dick Cheney walked onstage without any assistance and spoke for an hour and 15 minutes Saturday without seeming to tire in his first public engagement since he underwent a heart transplant three weeks ago.

He sat in a plush chair throughout the long chat with daughter Liz Cheney but looked better, even, than during recent appearances where he has been gaunt and used a cane.

Cheney even threw in a couple of political plugs amid much reminiscing at the Wyoming Republican Party state convention in Cheyenne.

He said presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is going to do a "whale of a job." He said it's never been more important than now to defeat a sitting president and the Republican Party should unite behind Romney.

Cheney's heart transplant in Virginia on March 24 initially canceled his trip to the state party convention but he got last-minute medical clearance to go.

He owed a "huge debt" to the unknown donor of his new heart, he said, and to medical technology. He did not take the opportunity to weigh in on health care politics.

He didn't stumble in his words and his voice was clear.

"I was amazed he was able to say so much over the whole course of an hour," said one delegate to the convention, Helen Bishop, of Moran in Jackson Hole. "I thought it would be a really brief, 'Hi.' "

Nearly all of the talk traced the more than 40 years of Cheney's political career, including the controversial waterboarding and other interrogation practices the Bush administration employed to extract information from terrorist suspects.

"It produced a wealth of information. Don't let anybody tell you the enhanced interrogation program didn't work. It did," he said to the loudest applause of his visit.

Cheney has had five heart attacks. His first was during a visit to Cheyenne in 1978, when he was 37 and running for Congress for the first time. He recalled worrying about possibly having to suspend his campaign.

His doctor advised him otherwise.

"He said, 'Hell, Dick. Hard work never killed anybody.' Some of the best medical advice I ever got," Cheney said to chuckles.