Dick Cheney's Book Is Less Memoir Than Caricature

Dick Cheney's memoir is unapologetic to the point of caricature.

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Self-reflection is not something we have come to expect in elected officials, particularly those who have left office fairly recently. But could former Vice President Dick Cheney have not even made the slightest effort to convince people he didn't deserve the "Darth Vader" moniker assigned by his foes?

Cheney's memoir, written with his daughter, Liz Cheney, is so unapologetic as to be a caricature. One could hardly imagine that Cheney—or even anyone from the recently-departed Bush administration—would suddenly decide that the war in Iraq had been a mistake, based on lies. But he might have acknowledged that the basis for going to war—even if one believes that it was an honest misunderstanding, instead of a craven lie—turned out to be (oops!) not true. He chides the nation for failing to live within its means, but fails to consider the fiscal impact of two wars, massive tax cuts and a huge Medicare drug entitlement program. And his no-apology book tour confirms the theme; Cheney told the Today show that he thinks waterboarding is an acceptable way for the United States to get information out of suspected terrorists, but says he'd object if another nation did it to a U.S. citizens. [Read 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bush Tax Cuts.]

Former President George Bush certainly offered no apologies in his memoir, and that's to be expected. But Bush wasn't mean or angry in his book. He even told a rather charming story of how an African-American staffer had brought his two young boys to the White House during the waning days of the presidency, and that one of the boys had asked, "Where's Barack Obama?" There is characteristically nothing kind or charming or insightful to be found in Cheney's tome. Even the cover is daunting—a grimacing Cheney inside the White House, looking like he's deliberately trying to scare away the tourists.

The shot against former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is inexcusable: Cheney tells a story about how Rice had "tearfully" admitted to him that she was wrong to tell Bush that he should have apologized for misleading the American public about Saddam Hussein's alleged attempt to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger. Whether Rice broke down before Cheney, we may never know. But to turn an accomplished woman like Rice into some silly, weak little girl is unforgivable. Agree with Rice or not. Slam her for misstating or misreading intelligence before and after 9-11 or not. But she is brilliant; she has dedicated her life to scholarship and public service, and she deserves to be treated better. [See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell—who preceded Rice, and whom Cheney seems to believe was somehow hounded from office, although Powell said he had always intended to stay just one term—offers the best summation: Cheney took some "cheap shots" in the book. That's not the reflective mindset necessary for a memoir.

  • See photos of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.
  • See a photo gallery of Bush’s legacy.
  • Read Jamie Stiehm: Dick Cheney's Memoir the Saddest Story of Our Time.