Dick Cheney’s One-Term Presidency

  • Share
  • Read Later

That’s not so far from what Bart Gellman describes in his piece on the former Vice President’s memoir in this week’s magazine, now available to subscribers on the web:

As the Florida recount began, Cheney grabbed a pen and began sketching a Cabinet on the back of an old press release. He filled the list with old allies, cutting out the fellow governors whom Bush had promised to recruit. Next comes a marvelous scene of Cheney in his kitchen, running the transition with an old Princess phone for fear of eavesdroppers on the household’s cordless line. Readers will quickly sense that on many issues, the Bush White House had two executives, not one. Cheney says, in a rare expression of pride, that he negotiated “a unique arrangement in our history.”

Cheney was an antipolitician, prepared to march to his principles at any cost. No President could afford to govern that way. In the second term, Cheney’s memoir becomes a rich account of their mutual disillusionment. He rations his attacks on Bush, laying the President’s transgressions at the feet of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (“naive,” making “concession after concession”), Robert Gates (for telling allies Bush would not bomb Iran) and even Barack Obama, who extended some of the second-term Bush policies that Cheney did not like. But Cheney makes no serious attempt to disguise the breach. He was “a lone voice,” he writes, in favor of bombing a nuclear reactor under construction in Syria with North Korean technology. By Cheney’s account, Bush rubbed it in: “Does anyone here agree with the vice president?” he asked in the Situation Room. No one raised a hand.

By late 2006, Bush was making big decisions behind Cheney’s back. The President told Cheney he was firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then “turned and was out the door fast.” Cheney discovered that Bush’s team had been meeting in secret about Iraq, looking for military adjustments that could reduce the political heat on Capitol Hill. The Vice President, who disapproved of “temporizing to placate Democrats,” was not invited.