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DANIEL HENNINGER: DICK CHENEY – ‘I Didn’t Change. The World Changed’ – WSJ.com

August 30, 2011

‘I Didn’t Change. The World Changed’

In an interview, Dick Cheney says ‘It’s important to have people at the helm who are prepared to be unpopular.’

OPINION AUGUST 30, 2011

By DANIEL HENNINGER

No one should have expected that Dick Cheney’s memoir would be anything but frank. Make that brutally frank. Such as this characterization of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s description to President George W. Bush of her proposed nuclear-weapons agreement with North Korea. It’s on page 487:

“Looking for a way to explain this situation, Rice said, ‘Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don’t always get a written agreement.’ The statement was utterly misleading, totally divorced from what the secretary was doing, which was urging the president, in the absence of an agreement, to pretend to have one. . . . ”

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When the Bush presidency ended, Dick Cheney thought he was done with public life. In May 2009 he was back, delivering a speech at the American Enterprise Institute and defending the Bush anti-terror policies. Worth noting was that the White House, as counterweight, scheduled a speech by President Obama on the subject the same day.

It was a familiar place for the former vice president—in the eye of a public controversy’s raging storm. Seated peacefully now in a soft, tan leather chair in his home on the outskirts of his former congressional district in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and with his memoir about to be published, Mr. Cheney reflects on the dueling speeches between a sitting president and “the old has-been vice president.”

“When I left the government in January of ’09,” he says, “I did not anticipate that I was going to be some kind of a public spokesman on behalf of those policies. I thought I had 40 good years in the business. But I found there wasn’t anybody else out there, and when they started talking about shutting down these programs, prosecuting the people who carried out these policies, frankly I got angry. That’s why I made the speech.”

Friend and foe would agree—vintage Cheney. He won’t back down. He’s lost plenty, as the book makes clear, but not for lack of effort or argument.

The prologue of “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir” (co-written with his daughter, Liz) describes Mr. Cheney experiencing the attacks on September 11, a day whose events would consume the next seven and a half years of his life. One of the vice president’s famously terse summaries of this period was his response to Brent Scowcroft’s remark that Mr. Cheney’s personality had somehow changed. “I didn’t change,” he replied. “The world changed.”

The first thing I asked Mr. Cheney was how he and President Bush became targets for such intense, visceral animosity after the national unity of 9/11 dissolved, lasting the length of two presidential terms.

“I want to be careful how I say this,” he replies. “I didn’t write about this in the book.” The answer that emerges adds no insight into the opposition’s mind—”I don’t want to say there was a political motive involved.” Instead Mr. Cheney’s instinct is to compare his understanding of the facts with the positions taken by an opposition operating with the same facts. He replies that if one looks at what prominent Democrats were saying about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction in the years before 9/11, “you can’t tell those statements apart from our statements.” What their critics mainly were looking for, he thinks, was a way to “put distance” between themselves and the administration.

via Daniel Henninger: ‘I Didn’t Change. The World Changed’ – WSJ.com.

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