Dick: The Man Who Is President
A review by Anna Godbersen
John Nichols' compact, scathing book on Richard Cheney takes as a given that the Vice President controls the Bush White House. This is not a new idea, and Nichols makes the assertion blithely and then moves in for a dissection of Cheney's political career, from the early fumblings to his current apotheosis. The book is billed as "a highly unauthorized biography," and does briefly cover the V.P.'s birth and youth. (Young Dick's first experience with campaign management was aggressively promoting his future wife Lynne's bid for homecoming queen.) But Dick is most interesting when it describes Cheney's relationship to power. In Nichols' portrait, Dick is a power-obsessed, conniving, not particularly competent, and generally nasty fellow.
Nichols relates Cheney's ascendancy as a tale of politics at its crassest. He tells how Dick, of an age to have served in Vietnam, cynically timed his schooling, his marriage, and then the birth of his first child in order to avoid the draft. He picks apart Cheney's relationship to his "home state" of Wyoming (exploitative), his Congressional voting record (which he used to establish himself as an arch-conservative and thus garner more power in the right-moving GOP), and his term as CEO of Halliburton (highly unethical). As Nichols puts it, "few corporations in the history of the world have ever arranged and maintained more deals with dictators than Halliburton did when Cheney was in charge." Nichols also gives a detailed account of how Cheney wormed his way into the Bush campaign, put himself in charge of the search for Bush's running mate, and then chose himself. In each episode it is ruthless ambition -- not superior knowledge or business savvy -- that moves Dick ahead.
Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, describes a Vice President who has benefited hugely from his man-behind-the-curtain persona. Dick is a frightening and witty book that does much to reveal the inner Cheney.
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