Friday, February 19, 2010

Cheney, by Stephen F. Hayes

Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President"The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President" was a great read for political junkies. There's probably not enough dirt or astounding revelations here for readers on the Left, but it appears to be a fairly accurate account of those portions of Dick Cheney's life that remain unclassified.

I found I could relate to Cheney in a couple of ways. First, when he graduated high school, he had a full ride scholarship to Yale, but after a couple of years there of hard partying and soft studying, he flunked out and went to work for a few years building power lines back in Wyoming. I did the same sort of thing, albeit at a somewhat less prestigious university. Later on, he went back and finished up his education, so I can relate to that, too.

Stories from his time in the Ford administration brought back memories of things I remember living through, though as a teenager my sense of national affairs was a bit sketchy. As I read this book, however, I begin to see how some of the relationships began that would shape the future, through the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II presidencies. For some reason, it had escaped my notice that Cheney had spent a fair amount of time as a congressman from Wyoming and had worked his way rapidly into the Republican leadership in that body.

There's a lot of good background on Cheney's time as Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration, and the rationale behind the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein from power during the first Gulf War. Some of the more controversial political issues of the second Bush administration, such as the intelligence on WMDs, the "sixteen words" in Bush's State of the Union speech, the outing of Valerie Plame, and the interpretation of the FISA laws on domestic surveillance are covered in detail.

Cheney the man is portrayed as a very thoughtful, often reserved, person. He comes off as extremely analytical, consuming vast quantities of information on a subject before coming to a decision. Most everyone Hayes interviewed for this book said that he doesn't say a lot, but when he talks, like E.F. Hutton, people listen.

I found the book engrossing and interesting, and think Hayes has done a great job of research in this tome.

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