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Cheney: The Untold Story of the Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President in American Historyby Stephen F. Hayes
Synopses & Reviews
During a forty-year career in politics, Vice President Dick Cheney has been involved in some of the most consequential decisions in recent American history. He was one of a few select advisers in the room when President Gerald Ford decided to declare an end to the Vietnam War. Nearly thirty years later, from the presidential bunker below the White House in the moments immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he helped shape the response: America's global war on terror.
Yet for all of his influence, the world knows very little about Dick Cheney. The most powerful vice president in U.S. history has also been the most secretive and guarded of all public officials. "Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole?" Cheney asked rhetorically in 2004. "It's a nice way to operate, actually."
Now, in Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, New York Times bestselling author and Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen F. Hayes offers readers a groundbreaking view into the world of this most enigmatic man. Having had exclusive access to Cheney himself, Hayes draws upon hundreds of interviews with the vice president, his boyhood friends, political mentors, family members, reticent staffers, and senior Bush administration officials, to deliver a comprehensive portrait of one of the most important political figures in modern times.
The wide range of topics Hayes covers includes Cheney's withdrawal from Yale; his early run-ins with the law; the incident that almost got him blackballed from working in the Ford White House; his meteoric rise to congressional leadership; his opposition to removing Saddam Hussein from power after the first Gulf War; the solo, cross-country drive he took after leaving the Pentagon; his selection as Bush's running mate; his commanding performance on 9/11; the aggressive intelligence and interrogation measures he pushed in the aftermath of those attacks; the necessity of the Iraq War; the consequences of mistakes made during and after that war; and intelligence battles with the CIA and their lasting effects. With exhaustive reporting, Hayes shines a light into the shadows of the Bush administration and finds a very different Dick Cheney from the one America thinks it knows.
"In his Author's Note at the beginning of 'Cheney,' Stephen Hayes recounts an exchange last summer with the subject of his new biography. The vice president, Hayes writes, was relaxed and seemed to be enjoying himself during an interview at his home in Jackson, Wyo. Setting up what Hayes describes as an 'amusing anecdote' from his time as defense secretary in 1989, Dick Cheney mentioned 'an urgent... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) call summoning him to the White House on his first day at the Pentagon.' When Cheney finished the story, Hayes followed up with a question. Did he remember the subject of that urgent call? 'I do,' Cheney replied tersely. Hayes pressed on. 'Umm, anything you can talk about?' No, Cheney replied. It was classified. Hayes writes that he spent nearly 30 hours interviewing Cheney — one-on-one, on the record — for the book. He footnotes nine separate sessions, beginning in mid-2004 and ending just last February. For the famously secretive and media-loathing veep, it is an unprecedented amount of face time. As Hayes documents, throughout Cheney's long career in politics and government, Cheney has seen those who talk about inside information as only slightly more despicable than those who write about it (note Valerie Plame exception). But while he chatted cheerfully with Hayes about his early years in his birth state of Nebraska, his youthful interregnum as a ne'er-do-well college failure, his service as chief of staff in the Ford administration, his meteoric rise as a young Republican conservative in Congress and his well-regarded tenure as secretary of defense, the vice president 'knew where he wanted to draw the line,' Hayes reports. What goes on inside the White House is clearly on the off-limits side of the line and there is little new information here, either secret or self-revelatory, about the George W. Bush administration. For the legions struggling to understand the inscrutable Cheney psyche, much is worth remembering about his pre-Bush life. After recounting Cheney's bucolic Nebraska boyhood, Hayes touches all the bases, ably relating his multiple failures as a scholarship student at Yale and the drinking (two DUI arrests) and dead-end jobs that subsequently filled his time back in Wyoming. That was all before local majorette and academic star Lynne Vincent shook some sense into him, married him and set him on track for a college degree and later graduate studies in political science. Sprung from an academic future by a congressional fellowship in 1968, Cheney never looked back. When he was hired by Donald Rumsfeld to work in the Nixon administration's Office of Economic Opportunity ('You, you're congressional relations. Now get the hell outta here.'), a mutually beneficial relationship between kindred political spirits was born. Through liberal quotations from Cheney memos, reports and speeches during the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, along with Cheney's interview comments, Hayes displays the deep roots of Cheney's current official persona. Building executive power at the expense of the legislative branch, making secrecy rather than transparency his fallback position on any issue and preferring power behind the scenes to public idolatry have been the bedrock of Cheney's beliefs and operating style throughout his career. Hayes, a staff writer for the Weekly Standard, wrote a previous book attempting to prove a close prewar connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Here, he offers highly selective versions of this and other Bush-era controversies, from unwarranted wiretapping to Hussein's alleged nuclear weapons programs. He makes no energetic effort to get inside the workings of the Bush administration and leaves out much of what is already known. While the first half of the book finds Cheney and Rumsfeld energetically plotting their way through the Nixon and Ford White Houses, Rumsfeld, despite his central role in the Bush administration, more or less disappears from the narrative after Cheney selects him as Bush's defense secretary. Battles with Colin Powell and, to a lesser extent, with Condoleezza Rice that helped define the administration's national security policymaking are ignored or given short shrift. Haynes writes that he conducted 600 interviews for the book, and a few of them contain revealing nuggets, even if those nuggets remain unexplored. For instance, shortly before accepting the job of director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell seemed to side with those who believe that the administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq for political purposes before the 2003 invasion. But Haynes fails to look deeper into it. Hayes also interviewed Bush, who offers little insight but provides a stream of typically fractured syntax. Here is the president on his differences with Cheney — whose daughter Mary is a lesbian — over the subject of gay marriage: 'My only ask was that if his daughter doubted my tolerance to her orientation that I would hope that he would help make it clear to Mary that this is a — I was just worried about — the reason I'd federalized the issue is because I was worried about the courts' defining the issue and that we'd end up with de facto marriage that was not traditionally defined, I guess is the best way to put it.' Although Hayes rarely probes, there are other, more tantalizing hints of disagreement on issues such as tax policy, Iran sanctions and whether or not to fire Rumsfeld. Referring to Bush's vision for spreading democracy around the world, Hayes notes, 'On this issue perhaps more than others, it can be difficult to tell how much Cheney allows his policy to be set by the man he works for.' In the final third of the book, devoted to Bush's first six years in office, the President is little more than a bit player in an administration where Cheney is pretty much in charge of everything from energy and tax policies to the war on terror. But explaining how that works, it seems, in the eyes of this biographer and his subject, would be crossing the line. Karen DeYoung is an associate editor at The Washington Post and author of 'Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell.'" Reviewed by Lily KingRon CharlesBruce SchoenfeldSusan WareJudy BudnitzBryan BurroughKaren DeYoung, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"A worshipful portrait of Dick Cheney....Strictly for admirers." Kirkus Reviews
"Hayes chooses to provide what is essentially a chronological account of Cheney's life. The strength of this approach is that it places him in a context — and a rich context at that." New York Times
"Until a more dispassionate biography is written, it will do." St. Petersbug Times
"Mr. Hayes has an advantage over others who have struggled with this subject: Mr. Cheney actually talked to him....The result is a detailed and sympathetic portrait, but one that will leave Mr. Cheney's erstwhile friends still confused." Wall Street Journal
Book News Annotation:
Hayes (a senior editor for the Weekly Standard) has written a number of pieces (not to mention the 2004 book, The Connection) supportive of the idea of a significant relationship between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, writings that were cited by Vice President Cheney as "the best source of information" on the topic in support of the argument for invading and occupying Iraq (given that the National Intelligence Estimate, the 9/11 Commission, and numerous other sources had dismissed the idea of such a relationship), in addition to numerous other pieces supportive of the Bush administration. Clearly viewed as a friendly journalist, Hayes was granted unprecedented access to the Vice President and those around him in order to fashion this uncritical political biography. The result is a narrative that describes Cheney's career in the public and private sectors in largely favorable terms and that generally echoes the views of the Bush administration, Cheney's office in particular, and is dismissive of critics on some of the most controversial issues of the so-called "War on Terror." Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
With full cooperation from Wolfowitz and a host of Washington heavyweights, Hayes presents a timely and fascinating look at the man most responsible for reshaping our country's foreign policy.
Over a forty-year career in politics, US Vice-President Dick Cheney has been involved in many of the most consequential decisions in recent American history. He was one of a handful of advisers in the room when President Gerald Ford decided to declare an end to the Vietnam War; and, nearly thirty years later, he was one of the leaders in a confrontation with Iraq many would argue ignored the lessons of that earlier conflict. But despite these high-profile accomplishments, the world knows very little about Dick Cheney. Now, New York Times bestselling author Stephen F. Hayes offers readers an exclusive view into this mystery world in CHENEY, a new biography of the enigmatic official.
About the Author
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer for the Weekly Standard and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America. He has been a commentator on many television and radio broadcasts, including the Today show, Meet the Press, the Diane Rehm Show, Fox News Sunday, the O'Reilly Factor, and CNN's Late Edition. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, The National Review, and the New York Post. He lives on the Chesapeake Bay with his wife and two children.
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