A Vice President, by definition, will always receive less scrutiny than the fellow at the top of the ticket. Fortunately for Dick Cheney, that lower profile works out quite nicely since, according to author John Nichols, it affords him greater ease in secretly running the government. Nichols chronicles Cheney's many different incarnations: unsuccessful student flunking out of Yale twice, young political operative, Ford administration chief of staff, Wyoming congressman, Secretary of Defense, Halliburton CEO, and finally Vice President. What all these steps have in common, argues Nichols, is a nearly insatiable hunger for power satisfied by Cheney's knack for insinuating himself, Zelig-like, into important places in order to advance. The most compelling sections of Dick: The Man Who Is President
deal with Cheney's heading of George W. Bush's vice-presidential search committee and declaring himself the best man for the job, a process Nichols claims was a complete sham from the start. Once in office, Cheney gained historically unprecedented access and power, Nichols claims, simply because no one could stop him. Though Cheney has a deeply conservative voting record and is credited with leading the "neoconservative" school of thought that guided the foreign policy of Bush's administration, Nichols points out that Cheney was known as a moderate in his time with Ford but with Ford's defeat and the rise of Ronald Reagan, shifting hard to the right was simply a more expedient path to power. Dick
is more an examination of motives and methods than a strict biography. As such it doesn't move linearly through time, instead jumping around to demonstrate how past events inform current situations. And though Dick Cheney probably wouldn't appreciate Nichols' relentlessly critical approach, it's interesting to see a bright light shone on a man who does so much work in secret undisclosed locations. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
That George W. Bush is a bumbling "president in name only" and that Dick Cheney holds the real power in the administration is a familiar position, and Nichols, Washington correspondent for the Nation
, takes it with an unsubtle, repetitive hammering of its main features. Righteousness colors otherwise compelling, in-depth considerations of matters such as Cheney's evasion of military service during the Vietnam War and his archconservative voting record as a congressman. Nichols has a lot of cogent and well-collated material about his subject's "hustling for power," both in Washington and as the CEO of Halliburton, but he occasionally overreaches, as when he suggests that then-secretary of defense Cheney's pressure to maintain military spending levels after the end of the Cold War shaped the rise in terrorist activities leading up to 9/11. In addition, overlong sidebars derail the main argument, at times adding little more to the debate than petty sniggering over the future vice-president's poor college record and his wife's lesbian romance novel. But at his best, Nichols asks tough questions that went largely unanswered during the last presidential election.
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