I’ve been trying to write a post about Dick Cheney’s autobiography for weeks now. I highlighted every single demonstrably wrong thing that he said in the book, with the intention of debunking it all one by one. I even went as far as to read the awful George Tenet book that I couldn’t get through when it originally came out. I looked up statements from Colin Powell, Condi, and even George W Bush refuting Cheney’s claims. I was armed and ready to fire away at the book. But when I started writing that post, I realized that this approach was both pointless, and a waste.
It was pointless because any diligent follower of politics already knows the facts about Iraq, Bin Laden, and Katrina. It would have been a waste of a post because I would have to completely skip over the things that really struck me about Cheney in this book.
So I’m going to write a post about my impressions and observations of Dick Cheney, as a result of reading his book because I think it will make for more interesting reading.
The first thing that struck me about the book is that the prologue, the fucking prologue is the day of 9/11. Seriously, Dick? First of all, he obviously has no idea what purpose a prologue is supposed to serve. Secondly, the worst goddamned day in American history is the thing he’s salivating to talk about first?
I can’t understate how much Cheney gives the impression that he was running the show on that day. In his version of the story, he was literally calling all the shots because of “communication issues” on the president’s end. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to believe this account because I remember Bush’s famous “My Pet Goat” seven minutes. There was nothing in that performance that told me he was prepared to deal with a kid with a skinned knee, let alone a major attack on America. I just find it fascinating that Cheney chose to say what he did. Most people, after having served a president, have the decorum to never ever malign or damage that president’s reputation or authority in any way. Not Cheney. He’s classless and feels no loyalty or respect for Bush (you’ll see more evidence of this later). He has no qualms sharing an account that makes the president look like a hapless rube while Cheney “has everything under control”.
At one point during that attack on that day, Cheney actually gave the order to shoot down flight 93 after it had gone off course. I don’t have a problem with the order being given under those circumstances. I have a problem with the fucking vice president giving that order, because the guy who was never legitimately elected to be president in the first place can’t (unsurprisingly) handle the job. He claims that he had approval from the president to give that order, but that statement isn’t at all consistent with the lack of communication between the two of them throughout the day.
So there are a few things that struck me about Cheney’s upbringing. They mostly struck me as odd, given the political ideology he advocated for later in life. He talks about his father who, while struggling to make ends meet while getting through college, decides to take a civil service exam and subsequently takes a government job instead of finishing college. He then takes another, higher paying government job. At one point in the book, he writes (about his father)
He was also proud of the pension that came with federal employment – a pride that I didn’t really understand until as an adult I had learned about the economic catastrophes that his parents and grandparents had experienced and that had shadowed his own youth. I’ve often reflected on how different was the utterly stable environment he provided for his family and wondered if because of that I have been able to take risks, to change directions, and to leave one career path for another with hardly a second thought.So let me get this straight, Dick: the government came in on a white horse and saved your family in a much more overt way than it helps the average American and yet, you join the party whose aim is to destroy government because it’s never helped anyone?
At this point in the book, I’m realizing that naming him Dick was nothing short of prophetic.
Another interesting event: in 1959 Dick was awarded a full scholarship (which included room and board) to Yale. He ended up getting kicked out for getting shitty grades. What kind of asshole pisses off the gift of a free ivy league education? And my first question about the grant is, was it a federally funded grant?
When he got back to Wyoming from Yale, he took a union job where, “I was earning $3.10 an hour, which was good pay in those days, and picking up a lot of overtime and time and a half.” It’s nice to see you enjoying the benefits of union membership, Dick.
At some point, he decides to go back to school and enrolls at the University of Wyoming because they had to take him regardless of his shitty academic record, because he had graduated from a Wyoming high school. Let me work through all of this; so Dick went to a socialist, state funded school because the government had a mandate that they had to take him? This fucking asshole has been the beneficiary of government handouts and regulations his whole miserable life. But his sucking off the government teat didn’t end there. While he was in school, he earned some extra money by reading to a veteran who had lost his sight. Dick’s $1.75 an hour was paid for by the granddaddy of all socialist medicine; the veteran’s administration.
I honestly can’t comprehend how someone can have so much disdain for government when they have directly benefitted from its existence in so many ways. But not learning lessons from life is an ongoing theme in Dick’s life.
At one point, he and Lynne are engaged so he starts saving money for their honeymoon. He gets a bad case of food poisoning and has to go to the hospital. He didn’t have any insurance, so he had to spend all of the money he had saved on medical bills. Here’s another example of Dick’s imperviousness to learning from facts and life experience. There are three kinds of people in the world; the kind that can empathize with people, even though they’ve never been in their shoes; the kind that can empathize with people only if they’ve been in their shoes; and then there’s Dick, the kind that have been in your shoes, but still want you to go fuck yourself because they’re wearing much more expensive shoes now. Look Dick, you didn’t have insurance because you couldn’t afford it. How about you learn something from that experience and apply that to your political ideology?
Another part that I found fascinating was when he talked about his draft dodging. The dodging wasn’t interesting, the way he ignored it was. Here’s everything he said about it, in its entirety:
Shortly after I began work on my PhD, I had turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft. In the days when I had been, I had received deferments as a student and father. Earlier, when I was doing line work, I had been classified 1-A, but draft numbers were low and I wasn’t called. If I had been, I would have been happy to serve.
I find it fascinating that there’s no emotion or explanation here at all. He doesn’t explain the deferments, doesn’t talk about how the possibility of drafted made him feel, nothing. Just says that he deferred (he left out that it was 5 times), and then contradicts his actions by saying that he would have been happy to serve. Okay Dick, that sounds plausible. And again, this is a guy who was terrified of dying in a battle. One would think that those days of worrying about getting drafted would have occurred to him when his administration started a war and an occupation. But no, not Dick! He’s got some kind of fucking Kevlar vest that deflects wisdom and learning.
Another interesting part – he’s talking about Nixon’s chances of getting reelected in 1972. He writes:
Richard Nixon’s reelection was far from a sure thing. It looked very much as though the war in Vietnam, which he had said when he was campaigning in 1968 he knew how to end, would be an issue in 1972. Meanwhile, the hefty bills for Lyndon Johnson’s determination to fight the war in Vietnam and fund his great society had come due.
There were two components I found interesting there. First, he had already had experience getting a president who kept pushing for an unpopular war reelected. But the second part is more important. His lack of self awareness in talking about Johnson’s “hefty bills” being due is unfuckingbelievable. This asshole went on to serve in an administration that never bothered to pay for a fucking thing they passed is whining about cleaning up after someone else’s financial mess? Seriously Dick?
A particularly galling part of the book is when he talks about the speech President Ford gave, announcing that America was done with Vietnam. He writes:
I remember distinctly that when he spoke those words, some people in the audience wanted to cry and some wanted to cheer, but there was an unmistakable sense of relief for all of us that transcended one’s view of the war. Indeed, even for me, and I had supported the effort, hearing the president say those words was welcome in a way it’s hard to describe. We had lost more than fifty-eight thousand young Americans in the war, and Vietnam had divided us as a nation for so long. The war in Southeast Asia had ended in an awful way, but at least it ended. It was over.
I was fucking livid, reading that paragraph and thinking about what he had pushed to do with Iraq. Either the emotion he speaks of here is complete bullshit, designed to make him appear to be less of a robot, or he learned jack shit from that experience. Are you picking up a pattern yet?
This post is already very long, so I’m going to get to the rest of the book in part 2, which is disturbing and twisted in a completely different way than part 1.