The Freak Show: The Man Who Destroyed America

I don’t usually do book reviews, especially not of a fiction book. But the new Dick Cheney memoir, In My Time, is so egregious that it deserves to be treated with contempt usually only reserved for the man himself. It’s a self-aggrandizing attempt to justify things he did that will take years to unravel.

It’s amazing that this guy ever got to the level of Vice President to begin with. He flunked out of college twice, and avoided the Vietnam War draft by continually applying for deferments. When those ran out, he got married and got his wife pregnant, enabling him to apply for a fifth exemption for men with children. Finally, in January of 1967, he turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.

He befriended enough people to get positions with Presidents Ford and the first President Bush. So when the younger Bush sought advice on choosing a Vice Presidential candidate, Cheney was asked to lead the search. Lo and behold, he came back with the recommendation that he would be the best choice.

As a colleague of Bush’s father, Cheney wasted no time in acting as the major force in the White House. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, told ABC News that Cheney “was president for all practical purposes.” Helen Thomas, the noted White House news correspondent, concurs. She wrote, “There were times when Cheney seemed to steal the show, diminishing President George W. Bush’s role. After 9/11, some called him “President Cheney.”

Cheney defends himself by insisting that’s the way Bush wanted it. He says, “From day one, George W. Bush made clear he wanted me to help govern… to the extent that this created a unique arrangement in our history.”

Some of his colleagues, well-respected people such as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, have already come forward and said the book isn’t accurate. In fact, some passages directly contradict what George W. Bush wrote in his book.

When Cheney led the charge on claiming that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium for enrichment of nuclear weapons from North Korea, the administration issued an apology for making the false statement. Cheney writes that Rice “came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk and tearfully admitted I had been right.” Rice, however, stands by her reputation as being all business, and never went to anybody “tearfully” to tell them they were right. Rice also claims his excerpts about her negotiations with the North Korea on a nuclear weapons treaty were patently false.

Colin Powell also is adamant about the nature of Cheney’s claims. He said the book is a bunch of “cheap shots.” In the book, Cheney takes credit for Powell’s exit from the White House, and says Powell tried to undermine Bush by criticizing the President to government outsiders. “He says that I went out of my way not to present my positions to the President but to take them outside of the administration,” Powell said. “That’s nonsense.” And he goes on to further say that he had plans set to leave after the 2004 election, and his leaving had nothing to do with Cheney.

The former Vice President states unequivocally that he was right about invading Iraq, despite the fact that no weapons were ever found, that we did it without paying for it, that we pulled troops out of Afghanistan to do it, and that hundreds of thousands lost their lives, and it’s still not a stable country.

When questioned by Matt Lauer about this on The Today Show, he said something to the affect that if Gadhafi in Libya had nuclear weapons, he wouldn’t have fled the country in the face of the rebellion. Huh? I don’t get it. Is he saying that Saddam Hussein would have developed nuclear weapons and given them to Gadhafi? Or that Hussein would have used them on his own people if they rebelled?

The war was a colossal failure on every level, and we’re paying a heavy price for it; financially, in the lives of the families of the boys we lost, and in our reputation around the world. Cheney doesn’t see that. He says we didn’t lose any of our reputation by invading Iraq.

After 9/11, we had the sympathy of just about every country on Earth, save the Palestinians, who openly celebrated. But other usually hostile countries thought Bin Laden had gone too far. We had the golden, once in a millennium opportunity to lead the world in a fight against terrorism, and to form a grand coalition of countries to work together.

Then we go and invade Iraq based on evidence that was manipulated. We abused prisoners of war, used torture and passed a law to allow surveillance of our own citizens. The United States, that beacon of freedom and human rights, had turned into just another country that goes by the creed, “the end justifies the means.”

And that’s exactly what Cheney states when he defends using torture. When Matt Lauer pressed him on that issue, he said that these were bad people, and we needed the information. Lauer asked if he would be okay with another country doing that to American citizens who they arrested for spying, and he said these weren’t American citizens we’re talking about.

At the time, Cheney said things like, “We know where they (the weapons) are.” There were no weapons of mass destruction, and no ties between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, which he also claimed. Yet this book, he claims everything he did turned out to be right.

Nazi Joseph Goebbels famously wrote that, “When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.” Cheney remains defiant that he never made any mistakes.