Dick Cheney is going against two principles he held dear during his decades of public service — he’s not keeping secrets, and he’s no longer being careful not to undermine a former superior. The man who was livid at the “beyond the pale” tell-all accounts of former Bush-administration officials Paul Bremer, Paul O’Neill, and Scott McLellan is now planning to dish about his disagreements (or “uncloak” them, as the Washington Post hilariously puts it) with W. in his upcoming book. The former vice-president, in discussions with friends and allies over the development of the tome, has made this clear:
“In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,” said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. “He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times – never apologize, never explain – and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”
It’s funny — whatever you say about Cheney (and there is a lot to be said), it used to be you couldn’t argue that he wasn’t consistent at all cost. He and Bush’s stubborn “stay the course” policies have already become the stuff of legend. In the twilight of their careers, though, Bush has notably become more quiet and reflective, not speaking out to defend himself. By contrast, Cheney’s guns-blazing approach to protecting his own reputation makes Bush almost seem like a lovable old softie.
Cheney will never change his mind about policy and his perceived threats to America, but he has changed his mind about spilling secrets and undermining his colleagues. According to the Post, he won’t include “feelings” or “personal details” in his book, as Bush plans to do. “He sort of spat the word ‘personal,’” said a person who talked with the former vice-president about the work in progress. But the very fact that Cheney is reversing a lifelong honor code reveals a lot about his “personal feelings.” It seems to us, and maybe this is projecting too much onto a man whose heart is made entirely of yellowcake, that the threat of a permanently tarnished legacy has actually deeply upset Cheney. He may not write it down, but so far just by reading between the lines it comes through loud and clear: Dick Cheney has feelings, and they are hurt.