Cheney’s Book: A Masterpiece of Wisdom and Humility
A Review by Gene Weingarten
In this surprisingly intimate memoir, Mr. Cheney reveals a personal warmth that will take many of his carping critics by surprise. Who could fail to be moved by his description of his worries, as a father-to-be, that his newborn daughter would inherit his genes and have to face, as he did, the painful ordeal of horn-removal surgery?
In a similar vein, Cheney finally puts to rest the persistent rumor that, while himself in utero, he ate his twin brother to eliminate a competitor. Mr. Cheney admits the unusual infanti-fratricide but says he believed at the time — and still does — that his womb-mate had “all the earmarks of a terrorist sympathizer.”
There is no scapegoating in this book, which forthrightly tackles difficult subjects: Mr. Cheney, for example, acknowledges to readers that the embarrassing, diplomatically catastrophic failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was “absolutely as much my fault as anyone else’s. Yours, for example.”
Those all too ready to believe the worst about the former vice president will learn that despite Mr. Cheney’s well-known enthusiasm for enhanced interrogation techniques, he did not in fact advocate the use of the iron maiden. Mr. Cheney says he “only once, and only briefly, merely suggested looking into the feasibility” of re-manufacturing an insertion device called “The Pear of Anguish,” an actual instrument of medieval punishment that resembled the fruit and could expand to the size of a regulation NFL football.
The book clears up a confusion connected to Mr. Cheney’s unexpected appearance at the Obama inauguration in a wheelchair, looking every bit the hunched, spavined, cackling, evil homunculus many think him to be. It turns out he had merely pulled a muscle in his back and was not — as some have baselessly speculated — using this public moment to pay visual homage to his fictional hero, role model and personal deity, Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Cheney confronts head-on the most awkward moments of his life, including the time he accidentally shot his friend Harry Whittington, then 78, in the face while hunting. The book forgives Whittington “for getting his damn face in the way of my quail.”
The book is reticent where it must be; we can all be grateful to the former vice president for his delicacy in omitting mention of any romantic interludes in his life, allowing us all to continue telling ourselves that he has never taken off his pants.
Though a rock-ribbed social conservative, Mr. Cheney has refreshingly charitable words for marginalized minorities, urging greater compassion for, and better integration into our society of, “those all-too-misunderstood groups such as the Undead and those with faith-based allegiance to Lucifer, Harvester of Souls.”
And finally, a personal apology:
Two years ago, when the news first broke that Mr. Cheney had a book contract, this reporter speculated that the former vice president would demand payment in the form of “a gunnysack filled with unblemished human heads.” It turns out this was completely wrong, and I regret the error. As Mr. Cheney makes clear in the acknowledgments, he was paid in the severed heads of the last 700 remaining East African mountain gorillas.
Rachel Manteuffel contributed to this column.