The story of the last White House is perhaps most of all about the relationship of the president and vice president. Who was the dominant figure? Was there an alternative government inside the official government? How much of the buck stopped with Dick Cheney
These are all points that Cheney seems now to want to argue. The Times has him with his Starbucks coffee
in his garage office plotting out a memoir on his yellow pads as he makes a series of strategic media appearances—continuing to use Fox News
as the Bush White House used it for the past eight years.
Bush himself may be in a contented retirement, but Cheney is still, belligerently and rancorously, commanding the legacy. This is defensive: He’s afraid the Democrats might be out to get him. And it’s retaliatory: He’s mad at Bush
for not pardoning Scooter Libby (the Times
reports Cheney and Bush have only spoken once
since January). And it’s territorial: He’s not just defending the record, he’s claiming it.
Never before has an American vice president argued for his place in history. Never before has the memoir of a former vice president been a potentially hotter property than that of the former president (no vice president has actually ever written a memoir of any significance).
For nearly seven of the eight Bush years, the point that everyone made about Cheney was that his influence came from his lack of ego and personal ambition. That, we’ve learned, was patently untrue. His influence might have actually come from George Bush’s lack of ego and personal ambition.
The Iraq War; the US terror policies, including the details of our torture methods; and the strategy of worldwide hostility—the key elements of the Bush administration that Bush himself seems now to be shrinking from—are, it seems, more and more likely (if there was any doubt) the Cheney program. And he’s not in the least shrinking from it. Indeed, his obdurate defense makes him the conservative standard bearer.
He strives, it seems, to put on a charmless face. Indeed, the Cheney circle is an unattractive as well as dyspeptic one. The Times
dredged up John Bolton, that drunken uncle at the funeral, to praise Cheney. It’s GOP hijinks. Cheney’s got his daughter, Liz, out defending her old man
, just as John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, is going after him: “You had the eight years. Go away.”
So what does Cheney want? Or, more to the point, what, given the radical turn of political fortunes, can he expect to get out of his campaign for self-justification?
In a way, it’s a study in pure character. What the man does is not move, or deviate, or modulate. It is all about implacability, about being, in some rather literal fashion, an old war horse. And by insisting on his absolute righteousness, he’ll surround himself with the other Neanderthals of the Bush years. Together they suggest a weirdly proud, and doomed, future of the Republican party.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com.