That’s not a headline I ever thought I’d write. The Washington Post is reporting that Cheney is hard at work on a memoir and has “opened a second front against Cheney’s White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.”
Cheney’s disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.
“In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,” said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. “He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”
In particular, Cheney is angry because “Bush halted the waterboarding of accused terrorists, closed secret CIA prisons, sought congressional blessing for domestic surveillance, and reached out diplomatically to Iran and North Korea, which Cheney believed to be ripe for “regime change,” and refused to pardon Scooter Libby.
Some old associates see Cheney’s newfound openness as a breach of principle. For decades, he expressed contempt for departing officials who wrote insider accounts, arguing that candid internal debate was impossible if the president and his advisers could not count on secrecy. As far back as 1979, one of the heroes in Lynne Cheney’s novel “Executive Privilege” resolved never to write a memoir because “a president deserved at least one person around him whose silence he could depend on.” Cheney lived that vow for the next 30 years.
I guess it’s only “executive privilege” when you don’t want to talk about it. Ah well. The book could be an interesting read. But I do wonder if, like some sort of reverse Book of Shadows, only the evil will be able to touch it.