Across the great divide, a recap

My week-long discussion with Bart Gelman and others about Bart’s book on the Cheney vice presidency ended today. The participants represented an eclectic group of Cheney bashers. Fortunately, all of them were civil and some of their commentary was insightful.

For the most part, my debate was with Bart over two issues: (1) is his book anti-Cheney and (2) is it fair.

The first issue should have required no debate, but on Wednesday Bart disputed my claim that the book treats Cheney’s impact as “very much for the worse.” He said that his views are rather more mixed.

I therefore wrote this post. Something of a “fool’s errand,” it quotes chapter and verse to show how negative Bart’s assessment of Cheney is.

Late today, at the close of the discussion, Bart responded by saying that the criticisms by him of Cheney that I cited are fact based. He then mentioned additional criticisms from the book by way of launching a fairly blistering attack on Cheney. I’ll take this as a concession that, yes, Bart has quite a negative view of the Cheney vice presidency and, no, his assessment in not “mixed.”

That leaves the question of whether Bart’s account is fair or slanted. Amplifying on a previous post, I contended here that Bart stacks the deck against Cheney to some extent by stripping his account of context and failing to consider some of the questions raised by his narrative. To his credit, Bart had agreed in part with my first post about lack of context.

In my final post, I summarized my view of the Cheney vice presidency. I figured someone should mention the absence of attacks on the homeland after 9/11. It wasn’t brought up during this week’s discussion and (though I may be wrong), I don’t think Bart mentioned it in his book. It’s now a given, and I think that’s the single most important fact about the Cheney vice presidency.

UPDATE: For me, the most interesting thing about the debate was the reaction of the participants when I raised the question of whether Bart’s book is slanted against Cheney. Apart from Bart, the consensus seemed to be that this question was “circular,” “unproductive,” possibly churlish, certainly a “right-wing” tacitc, and not really worthy of much discussion.

Finally, on the last day, David Greenberg purported to “join the debate.” He declared the book negative but fair, and that was that. Greenberg did not address any of the arguments I had made to that point.

SCOTT adds: In the 2005 Standard column “Wielding the hatchet” and the follow-up Power Line post “Professor Greenberg regrets,” I assessed Professor Greenberg’s skills as a critic. Suffice it to say that I found them to be wanting. He is a piece of work.

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