Opinion: Carolina Critic

A Personal Journey That Inspires

• Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, New York: Threshold Editions, 2011, 562 pages, $35.00.

When I started to read former Vice President Dick Cheney’s book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, written with his daughter Liz, it was not what I expected.

The media interviews with Cheney as he promoted the book focused on 9/11 and his years as vice president. Interviewers seemed bent on unearthing some dirt or conflicts within the Bush administration, rather than getting a full accounting of Dick Cheney’s life. Since the book opens with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, I assumed that this would be the book’s focus. But I was wrong.

Yes, the book opens with that eventful day, but the first chapter jumps to a fascinating history of Cheney’s family, especially, his father’s family who arrived in America in 1630.

However, it is Cheney’s personal journey that truly inspires. Cheney readily admits that he was arrested twice in his early 20s for driving under the influence. The second time, Cheney says, “I realized the morning I woke in that jail that if I didn’t change my ways, I was going to come to some bad end.” He changed that day.

He also was kicked out of Yale, not once, but twice for poor performance.

A changed Cheney would return to school and earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wyoming. By age 35, he became President Ford’s chief of staff. At 37, he was elected as Wyoming’s only representative in the U. S. House, where he served for 10 years and was seen as a calming force between the old guard Republicans and the newer, Newt Gingrich types.

In 1989, he became secretary of defense. Finally, he was elected the 46th vice president of the United States.

Because of his many political appointments and elected positions, Cheney is able to give the reader an in-depth look into every administration from Richard Nixon’s through Bush 43’s.

He provides details of the Ford administration and is lavish in his praise of Gerald Ford. It is apparent that Cheney does not admire Jimmy Carter. Surprisingly, although he was a congressman during the Reagan administration, there is very little about Reagan, other than Iran-Contra. I was left wondering if Cheney did not care for Reagan or if there was just too much information to include within the book.

The behind-the-scenes planning for Desert Storm Cheney relates is intriguing. This was not an overnight project. As secretary of defense, Cheney not only oversaw the military planning, but also worked to secure the support of a host of other nations, convincing Saudi Arabia to allow U.S. troops to deploy from Saudi soil.

Cheney seldom expresses negativity toward any person, but during the planning for Desert Storm, he did admit having reservations about Gen. Colin Powell’s dedication to the military action. Cheney also removed a general who stepped out of bounds when talking to the media.

The book ends with the aftermath of 9/11 and the George W. Bush administration, but in the final chapter Cheney is brutally honest about President Obama and his handling of Gauntanamo detainees, and the individuals who administered enhanced interrogation techniques.

Dick Cheney’s memoir is fascinating. Unfortunately, the events of 9/11 and the media’s visceral hatred of President Bush have obscured Cheney’s long and distinguished political career. Although I always have liked Cheney, I often thought he seemed grumpy. But his memoir shows a thoughtful man and a problem solver. As he says, “I’m a man of few words.”

As Cheney dealt with his duties as a congressman, secretary of defense, and vice president, I felt his actions screamed statesman. His love and respect for the military and this country is also evident. I came away with a new respect for Dick Cheney, whose sole aim was to serve his country.