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Cheney, selling Cheney

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Rick Horowitz
June 4, 2009

There’s another way to look at it.


Dick Cheney’s “I’m Not Going Anywhere” tour, that is. You can’t turn on your TV these days without seeing the former veep filling the screen with his latest account of what they did back when they were in charge, and why they did it, and how wonderfully it all worked, and how if it didn’t work it was somebody else’s fault. (Think George Tenet. Think Richard Clarke.) And most of all, how the new guys are messing everything up.


Cheney’s former boss—and we use the word loosely—may have slunk back to his beloved Texas when his time was through. But not the veep.


And the question is, “Why not?”


There’s a cottage industry devoted to plumbing Dick Cheney’s motives. After all, it’s traditional—not to say polite—to cede the spotlight to the new arrivals once your lease runs out. But Cheney won’t go. He certainly won’t shut up.


And the question is, “What’s up with that?”


He’s jealous, some people say. He just can’t stand it that the Dems are back on top.


He’s angry, other people say. As the years went on, he was more and more on the losing side in Bush administration strategy battles, and he’s still trying to refight those fights.


Or he’s vain. He’s intent on polishing up his tattered reputation before the historians get a crack at him.


Or he’s nervous. He’s scared that some international police force is going to swoop down on him someday and hold him to account for the waterboarding and the other horrors of the dark side, so he’s trying to put his version on the record first.


Or he’s a conniver. He’s saying Obama is letting our guard down so that, if ever and whenever another attack occurs, Cheney can duck his own responsibility for Osama bin Laden still being on the loose, and he can say, “See? I told you so!”


Or he’s a patriot. He’s speaking out because the country he loves is in mortal danger, and somebody has to be willing to sound the alarm. (Maybe so, although you’d like to think that before he went public with “Our defenses our down! We’re vulnerable!” he’d tried to pass the word through the appropriate private channels. After all, telling our enemies that this is a good time to come after us might not be the best way of keeping us safe, right?)


Plausible explanations, every one of them. But there’s another explanation. An even better explanation.


The book deal.


Dick Cheney is looking for a book deal. Absolutely true—the story was in the papers a couple of weeks ago, but the few people who saw it probably didn’t pay it much attention.


After all, they must have said to themselves, who’s going to want to publish Dick Cheney’s memoirs? He left office with an approval rating down there with the lepers—no insult intended to lepers. And worse than that: The guy was pretty much invisible for eight years! “Dick Cheney” and “undisclosed location” went together like “Heck of a job” and “Brownie.” Like “Abu” and “Ghraib.”


Even the truest of true believers, they must have figured, weren’t going to rush to pick up a book by a guy who’s famous for saying practically nothing about practically everything. For a memoir to sell, you need a writer who’s willing to spill the beans. Who’s willing to name names and point fingers. Dish the dirt and settle scores.


That’s what gets readers psyched. Which is what gets publishers psyched. Which is what starts the bidding war. Which is what jacks up the price of the deal.


Which might be the whole point of the recent Cheney barrage—not jealousy or anger or vanity or nerves or conniving or even patriotism.


Maybe he’s just in it for the money.


What a relief.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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