Monday, October 3, 2011
An Egotistical Memoir
I actually bought In My Time by Dick Cheney. Not as a royalty-based book, but on the secondary market. Yes, I bought it used. And I'm glad I did. I wouldn't want my sale to add to his royalties or to his status on the New York Times bestseller list.
Cheney and his daughter Liz, his co-author, open the book on 9/11, when President Bush was reading to school children in Florida and Cheney was in the White House bunker. His memory is that he was virtually in control while Bush was in the air trying to get back to Washington. Cheney held the government and the American people together by the sheer force of his decisions and his will. He issued orders to shoot down airliners that didn't immediately land. Fortunately, his orders went to NORAD and were not passed along to the entire Air Force. We should be grateful that Cheney was on guard, a veritable Atlas with the world on his shoulders.
The memoir is more political than personal, no matter what the subtitle says. Cheney has no problem spinning his every action into one of personal success. Yes, he was the youngest White House Chief of Staff for Ford. Yes, he mentored under Rumsfeld. Yes, he was Secretary of Defense. Yes, he was an eight-year Vice President under Bush 2. And throughout his forty-year career, he only made one mistake. He shot his best friend with bird shot.
Cheney sets up scenarios. In many of the meetings, he sits silently, then would go to the President to get his message across. When the US was ramping up for Gulf 1, Colin Powell was to brief the Saudis on what was going to happen. Cheney replaces Powell with himself, because he writes he couldn't trust Powell to deliver a strong message. He trashes Condi Rice for not carrying out Bush 2's policy on North Korea. His position was right; hers was wrong.
Memoirs represent the memory of the author. In this one, the author is egotistical, self-centered and always right. Except he wasn't always right. He was often wrong, as other viewers of recent history have already pointed out. But Cheney's memory shows what a legend he was in his own mind.
It was a fascinating portrait of a flawed human being, who is incapable of knowing when he was wrong and when to shut up.
Time for me to shut up. Read the book. Form your own opinion. This one belongs to me.