In My Time: A Preview

We once had the opportunity to spend some time with Dick and Lynne Cheney. It was a rare privilege. The private Cheney was pretty much the same as the public one: lucid, balanced, kind, his outlook informed by a lifetime of experience in public affairs. His memoir In My Time is about to hit the book stores, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon by following the link.

I’m looking forward to reading it. Of the memoirs that have recently been published by members of Cheney’s generation, the only one that rivals Cheney’s for interest, in my opinion, is his long-time friend and colleague Don Rumsfeld’s book Known and Unknown. Here are some nuggets from Cheney’s book, courtesy of Politico:

–Cheney reports that the Bush camp was angry and frustrated with Vice President Gore on election night, 2000: “Who RETRACTS a concession? In 1976 the election had also been very close, and we had decided to sleep on it and see how things looked in the morning before making any decision about conceding to Carter. I thought that if the Gore campaign had been any kind of a professional operation, they would have realized how close the vote was and wouldn’t have conceded in the first place. But to concede and then take it back was amateur hour. And the fact of the concession hurt Gore, I believe, as we headed into the recount.”

–”I picked up the phone and called Jim Baker [the night of the Supreme Court decision]. ‘Hello, Mr. Vice President-elect,” he said. ‘Thank you, Jim,’ I said, ‘and congratulations to you. You did a hell of a job. Only under your leadership could we have gone from a lead of eighteen hundred votes to a lead of one hundred fifty votes.’ He laughed heartily. He knew and I knew that his leadership in Florida had been vital.”

–Cheney writes about a field trip he took in his first weeks as V.P.: “After one late-night rally, my six-year-old granddaughter, Kate, climbed into the seat next to me on the campaign plane. ‘Grandpa,’ she said, ‘if you win, will you come to school as my show-and-tell?’ ‘You only want me if I win?’ I asked. ‘Yep,’ she answered. … [S]o on a snowy February morning, I was Kate’s show-and-tell. My impression was that most of her fellow first-graders were more interested in my Secret Service agents than in Kate’s old grandpa, but I’ll never forget the huge smile on her face as I walked into the classroom.”

–Prologue: Cheney opens by describing his experiences on 9/11, including the refusal of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, who as president pro tempore of the Senate was next in the presidential line of succession after the Speaker, to move to a secure location: “He went home instead. … At one point my friend Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma asked why the executive branch had the right to decide when members of Congress, a coequal branch of government, could come back to Washington. ‘Because we’ve got the helicopters, Don,’ I told him.”

–Cheney strongly opposed an apology for the 16 words about Saddam Hussein and uranium in the 2003 State of the Union address, arguing it would only fan the flames: “[A]nd why apologize when the British had, in fact, reported that Iraq had sought a significant amount of uranium in Africa? THE SIXTEEN WORDS WERE TRUE.”

–Cheney reprises the day after the 2006 accidental shooting of his quail-hunting partner, when the V.P. issued a statement to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times: “Our choice incensed the White House press pool and the rest of the mainstream media … But … the last thing on my mind was whether I was irritating the New York Times.”

–Cheney recalls that during the CIA leak investigation, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage stayed silent: “And, it pains me to note, so did his boss, Colin Powell, whom Armitage told he was [Robert] Novak’s source on October 1, 2003. Less than a week later, … there was a cabinet meeting. … [T]he press came in for a photo opportunity, and there were questions about who had leaked the information that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. The president said he didn’t know, but wanted the truth. Thinking back, I realize that one of the few people in the world who could have told him the truth, Colin Powell, was sitting right next to him.”

–”Given the opposition of politicians and the public to putting more troops in Iraq, George Bush was truly courageous to order a new strategy and the surge of troops to carry it out. The next ten months ratified his brave decision. Our troops, together with the Iraqis, defeated the insurgency, dealt a severe blow to al Qaeda, and created a secure environment so that the Iraqi political process could begin to take hold. When historians look back, George Bush’s decision will stand out as one that made a difference for millions and put history on a better track.”

–On President Obama’s announcement in June of an Afghanistan drawdown (of his own surge troops): “It is impossible for me not to make a comparison with George Bush in 2007. When President Bush surged troops into Iraq, he encountered significant pressures to reverse course, but he continued in the face of opposition, increasing American forces in order to implement the counterinsurgency strategy that enabled us to prevail. He did not allow domestic political considerations to interfere with his responsibilities as commander in chief.”

–”I remember thinking how grounded the president was through the whole economic ordeal. He kept perspective and was very good at handling pressure. He dealt effectively with some of the most difficult and complex issues any president has had to face.”

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