Dick Cheney said his book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, would cause heads to explode all over Washington. This was not an outlandish or arrogant prediction to make. With all of the names he named, there were bound to be a few unhappy campers. Indeed, Cheney makes it easy for readers to know exactly who he did and did not agree with on various issues, from the people he knew during his early days in Washington to those he worked with as vice president. That being said, In My Time is not a salacious read. In a straightforward manner that does not overdo it on detail, Cheney goes through his early life, his various political jobs, and other events in his life he finds relevant.
One thing is clear from early on in the book: when Cheney likes someone, he will sing their praises, and when he does not, he will be sure to say exactly why. The same thing happens when it comes to disagreements.
Take Colin Powell, for example. Cheney said Powell seemed more comfortable talking about poll numbers during the conflict in Kuwait than recommending military options.
Part of it was just Colin, the way he was attuned to public approval, but listening to him also made me think about how Vietnam had shaped the views of America's top generals, Cheney wrote.
Cheney is not particularly critical of former president George W. Bush, but he does talk about instances in which they disagreed. Scooter Libby was one of them. Cheney had hoped Bush would grant Libby a presidential pardon, but it didn't happen. George Bush made courageous decisions as president, and to this day I wish that pardoning Scooter Libby had been one of them, Cheney wrote.
Cheney did not hesitate to call out those who resigned from office before anyone had the chance to reprimand them. Cheney said that when he called then-Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, who wasn't working out for several reasons, and asked him to meet with the president, O'Neill canceled the meeting. He had someone drop off his resignation letter and left town, Cheney wrote.
Governmental figures- both prominent and otherwise- may get the credit or criticism Cheney thinks they deserve, but no one gets it harder than the media. Cheney's relationship with and views of the press are clearly stated in several instances throughout his memoir, and his opinion is rarely positive. The one exception is former CNN news anchor Bernard Shaw, who moderated the vice presidential debate between Cheney and Joe Lieberman. That's just about it. Cheney seemed to relish the fact that he did not budge when Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward tried to pump him for information on who would be Bush's running mate. None of his speculation was focused on me, and I felt no need to broaden his horizons, Cheney wrote.
After the Florida voting fiasco in the 2000 presidential election was resolved and newscasters were about to read the Supreme Court's ruling, Cheney said he surfed news channels, trying to find a reporter I could trust to be able to skim what might be a very complicated legal document and to report its meaning accurately. He said he stopped searching when he came upon NBC's Pete Williams, who he said did not disappoint. Not long before that, however, Cheney expressed a suspicion that Williams had an inside source in the Teton County clerk's office in Wyoming around the time of the 2000 elections, when he registered to vote in the August primary.
How other prominent officials interacted with the press was also of concern to Cheney. In an account reminiscent of what would happen after former general Stanley McChrystal granted access for a Rolling Stone article, Cheney, then-Secretary of Defense, recounts the time when former General Michael Dugan spoke to journalists about details related to the invasion of Kuwait. General Dugan had been advised not to take press with him on the trip, but he ignored the advice and spent many hours on the way over and back talking with journalists, Cheney wrote. When an article detailing specific targets the U.S. had in mind later appeared in the newspaper, Cheney told Dugan he would need his resignation. He took it like a man, saluted smartly, and left, Cheney wrote.
Cheney goes into conventional memoir topics such as early life and family. He derides John Kerry and John Edwards for bringing up his daughter Mary's sexual orientation during the 2004 presidential election. I was furious with his response, Cheney wrote, referring to when Edwards made comments about Mary Cheney being gay in the vice presidential debates. What gave him the right to make pronouncements about my family?
And then there was the time Cheney accidentally shot his friend while quail hunting. Popular television hosts such as Jon Stewart did indeed have a field day with this bit of news back in 2006. Cheney described the hunting day as one of the saddest of my life and said he appreciated the grace with which his friend handled the situation.
Cheney explains several times, both directly and indirectly, that he was always more concerned about protecting the nation than he was about looking bad to world leaders or coming up low on opinion polls. To this effect, he defends the use of Guantanamo Bay, among other things. Even if, for the sake of debate, one were to accept the image argument, I don't have much sympathy for the view that we should find an alternative to Guantanamo-a solution that could potentially make Americans less safe-simply because we are worried about how we are perceived abroad, he wrote.
Cheney's book is precisely that, Cheney's book. It's his perspective, his views, his side of the story. It's not a compelling read, but it gets right to the point. Whether his memoir will change people's opinion of him, for better or for worse, remains to be seen.