By Brian Kates
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Dick Cheney grouses that President Bush "went soft" in his second term, caving in to public pressure and failing to take his hardline advice, according to associates working with the former vice president on his memoirs.
Cheney, one of American history's most influential second bananas, is offering glimpses of his memoirs in chats with authors, diplomats and policy experts prior to publication in 2011, the Washington Post reports.
"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," one participant told the newspaper. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took....The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice.
Bush "showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming," the insider said.
Despite an ailing heart, the former vice president, 68, rises early, reads voraciously, enjoys attending the soccor and softball games of his oldest grandchildren, Kate and Elizabeth, and spends time fly fishing near his vacation homes in Wyoming and on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
But most of his days are spent hunkered down in an office in the garage of his McLean, Va., home, working on his memoirs, which will cover his career from chief of staff under President Gerald Ford to vice president under Bush.
Cheney, who has said "the statute of limitations has expired," now tells confidants that his memoir will describe his heated arguments with Bush in full.
Bush halted the waterboarding of accused terrorists, closed secret CIA prisons, sought congressional approval of domestic surveillance and reached out diplomatically to Iran and North Korea, all of which Cheney opposed.
Cheney told one small group recently that he had no interest "in sharing personal details," as Bush said he plans to do in his upcoming book.
But he is expected to serve up a particularly stinging account of his former boss' refusal to pardon I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, after the vice -president's former chief of staff was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in leaking an undercover CIA officer's name to the media in 2007.
John P. Hannah, Cheney's second-term national security adviser, said the former vice president is as driven now as he was while in office by fears of enemies acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists.
He acknowledges "doubts about the main channels of American policy" in Bush's second term, Hannah said. "He really feels he has an obligation" to save the country from danger.
Cheney gives no weight, close associates told the Washington Post, to his low approval ratings or to complaints by Republicans about his effect on the GOP's decline.
"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view.
"He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience."
- More coverage from the New York Daily News