Washington Matters


Cheney Memoir Will Be Page Turner


Former Vice President Dick Cheney's planned memoir promises to please, annoy and frustrate in equal measure. Count on some old wounds being freshly salted as he defends one controversial decision and policy after another, describes his strained relations with President Bush toward the end and probably unloads a volley of criticism on the Obama administration's approach to foreign policy and national security. Eagerly anticipated in political and foreign policy circles, it'll be a must-read for legions of supporters and critics.     

Most political histories move to the the bargain bin pretty quickly and often for good reason. They tend to be dull, self serving attempts at securing the author's legacy after history has already moved on and the national debate has shifted.

Cheney's book is planned for 2011 and will come out about the same time as President Bush's official memoir.

Cheney's memoir will be different than most, possibly even thrilling, no matter that some of the intrigue and debate will seem a bit old two years from now. It will come out near the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and just as the U.S. completes the planned withdrawal from Iraq after more than $1 trillion will have been spent and thousands dead and wounded. That should make it timely and uniquely relevant, especially if Obama has foreign policy setbacks and is taking hits. 

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Cheney was arguably the most controversial and powerful vice president in American history, and he was central in some of the largest decisions and policies for eight years, including the entire war in Iraq and the shifting arguments used for justification, the waterboarding policy and the treatment of terrorist-suspect detainees and Bush's foreign policy doctine of military intervention to prevent future attacks, no matter that it frosted U.S. relations with allies the world over.

He'll say the very direct and blunt foreign policy approach ("You're either with us or against us") in the Bush presidency and the policies employed kept the American homeland from being attacked again. 

The former vice president is already hinting he'll not hold his fire against critics and opinion makers who see a string of failures with Bush and Cheney, whether it was failure to aggresively pursue Al Queda before 9/11, to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the lack of WMD in Iraq, intelligence failures, the lack of a link between Al Qeada and Saddam Hussein, the no-bid Halliburton contracts and billions unaccounted for in reconstruction spending, the wildly low-balled estimates of the cost and duration of the war, not anticipating the long insurgency or the sectarian strife, Abu Ghraib, etc.

Cheney cared little about popularity polls, had almost a disdain for Congress and congressional oversight, championed executive branch secrecy, unilateral diplomacy and seemed to even humorously relish the Darth Vader moniker. So, yes, this should be a good read.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Cheney said recently the "statute of limitations" has expired  on presidential deference, suggesting a tell-all description is in the works of heated disagreements in the second term with Bush on multiple fronts, including domestic surveillance, use of CIA prisons and the lack of a presidential pardon for Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in the Valerie Plame matter.      

Just the advance notice that Cheney will come out swinging serves a worthwhile purpose by default, too. It will probably be just what it takes to make Bush answer criticisms from Cheney, his very loyal No. 2 for so long, that he somehow went soft, was shackled by low public approval ratings or stopped taking Cheney's advice and strayed from earlier iron-clad resolve.

Most likely, neither one will have the final say about the history, but the competing views, the policy clashes and the apparant personal friction should make for two eagerly anticipated bestsellers two years from now.

 

 




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