In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the "far left" agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney's White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.
Cheney's disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.
"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times -- never apologize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."
A president, showing independence from his vice-president? Dangerous stuff. I'd note, though, that this is perfectly in line with the neocon idea that Bush was an empty vessel and Palin was a "blank page" to fill with their ideas. (Hey, ya gotta know your market - no one bright would buy the neocon ideology, all the more so after its huge disasters.)
Back to Gellman, near the end of the piece:
"If he goes out and writes a memoir that spills beans about what took place behind closed doors, that would be out of character," said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House spokesman during Bush's first term.
Yet that appears to be precisely Cheney's intent. Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets. "When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him," Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. "Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened. . . . And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views."
Liz Cheney, whom friends credit with talking her father into writing the book, described the memoir as a record for posterity. "You have to think about his love of history, and when he thinks about this memoir, he thinks about it as a book his grandchildren will read," she said.
I'm sure they'll especially enjoy the torture scenes. Still, amazingly enough, Liz Cheney may have inadvertently done something good (assuming the raw, unvetted-by-criminal-defense-lawyers version can get out).
The Poor Man Institute points out:
...Consider this: By the time Cheney grew disenchanted with his protege, Bush had already started two wars against the dirty Moslem horde, deployed a mercenary army with a twisted religious sadism, authorized widespread torture, sanctioned indefinite detention and kidnapping, implemented a program for illegal wiretaps/surveillance of US citizens, signed-off on illegal settlement expansion in the occupied lands, endorsed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, supported Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, stoked a bloody (if unsuccessful) coup to topple Hamas in Gaza, and numerous other atrocities to warm the defective heart of Dick Cheney.
So the question is what, exactly, did Bush refuse to do that led to this increasingly messy divorce?
That is one of several big questions. In late July, after high profile pieces on the Libby pardon and Bush's consideration of deploying the military domestically broke, Digby made a similar point:
Reading this thing about the Tanks of Lackawanna, something has become clear to me that wasn't before: the excesses of the Bush administration, the war, the torture, the wiretapping, were the result of compromises between the sociopathic Cheney faction and the merely dull and incompetent remainder of the administration, including the president.
(The "Tanks" link points to DDay's post on this. If you missed them, I'd also recommend the Glenn Greenwald and Scott Horton posts on the military story, and Emptywheel's post "The Bush Fairy Tale on the Libby Pardon." When it comes to the Bush administration, as horrible as they've often appeared, subsequent revelations have almost always revealed them to be even worse.)
Commenting on the Gellman story and Cheney's plans to write a book, Anne Laurie writes:
Apparently omerta has its limits. I know a lot of us DFHs feared that the horrors of the Cheney Regency would never receive a public airing, if only for fear of the War Crimes Tribunal, but perhaps vanity will achieve what mere human decency and the rule of law never could.
Here's hoping. Still, the rule of law would be nice, if "quaint" in the view of Alberto Gonzales and the rest. I remain a fan of pitching the idea that the only thing that could possibly exonerate Cheney and the gang, and win them the accolades they so clearly deserve, is a full, unfettered investigation into the torture program (and the surveillance program and...).
I keep on plugging it, but Gellman's book Angler is one of the very best on Cheney and the Bush administration out there. As it is, he'll have to update it or write a sequel because some of what's come out since is even more nefarious. But if you're looking for a Cheney primer, you can read Angler excerpts here and here. Gellman's piece on "the Cheney Rules" is also a useful overview, and Scott Horton conducted a good interview with Gellman. Work by Jane Mayer, Ron Suskind and others give a much clearer picture of the Bush administration as well. Meanwhile, the Frontline episode "Cheney's Law" is one of several good pieces they've done on Cheney and the Bush administration.
Ah, the sweet smell of vanity and towering hubris. These guys have a warped view of the world, but their self-images are distorted as well. Remember, back during planning for the Gulf War, Cheney was repeatedly pitching crazy military plans to Norman Schwarzkopf. It's almost impossible to overstate how arrogant Cheney and his gang are (Addington's one of the worst). Cheney's approach showed an utter contempt for the American people, the entirety of Congress (including his own party), and even key members of the Bush administration. As I wrote in an earlier post, Cheney felt he was wiser than the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions, the Federalist papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Constitution, and the Boy Scout Oath. In the Scott Horton interview, Gellman describes Cheney as "a rare combination: a zealot in principle and a subtle, skillful tactician in practice." In Cheney's battle over whether to protect his proud legacy versus his instinct for self-preservation from prosecution, I'm hoping he pulls a Libby and the vain, arrogant zealot wins out.
Cheney thinks he's Jack Bauer. Part of him must be itching to go Colonel Jessep and yell the ugly truth at us all.
(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)