Rightist Indignation

On the same page: George H.W. Bush and Victor Gold work on Bush's autobiography in the vice president's residence in 1987.
On the same page: George H.W. Bush and Victor Gold work on Bush's autobiography in the vice president's residence in 1987. (Family Photo)
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 2, 2007

Vic Gold heard from Lynne Cheney a few weeks before George W. Bush was sworn in as president in January 2001. Cheney had an assignment for her old friend: She wanted Gold to write the profiles of her and her husband, the new vice president, for the official Inauguration program.

The veteran journalist and GOP campaign operative was a natural choice. After all, he had shared an office with Lynne Cheney at Washingtonian magazine before she became chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities -- and they even worked on a satirical novel together.

Gold was also an old friend of the new president's father, having worked with George H.W. Bush on his campaigns and co-written his autobiography. The association dated back to 1964, when Bush 41 was an unsuccessful Senate candidate in Texas and Gold a press assistant to unsuccessful presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

So Gold was also asked to write the official bios of the new president and first lady.

"With Texas deep in his heart, America's 43rd president is an optimistic man of faith and family," he proclaimed in the program.

Gold was equally effusive about Dick Cheney : "A man of gravitas with a quick and easy wit; a conservative who'll see a road less traveled; a political realist who sees his country and the world around him not in terms of leaden problems but golden opportunities."

At a lunch recently at a downtown Washington hotel, Gold, 78, hands over the program, now an artifact of seemingly ancient history. He is trying to explain why it was so hard to write his new book, one whose title encapsulates what he now thinks of his onetime friends: "Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP." The two men at the top, he says, were men he knew pretty well -- or at least he thought he did.

"What I described there was the Cheney we all thought we knew," Gold says ruefully.

His book, to be published this month by Sourcebooks with an initial print run of 20,000 copies, offers quite a different assessment of the two most powerful men in Washington. Under Bush and Cheney, he argues, the GOP has moved away from principles of small government, prudent foreign policy and leaving people alone to live their private lives -- all views Gold associates with his hero, Goldwater. "Invasion of the Party Snatchers" makes plain Gold's contempt for the direction of his party and the guidance of its leaders.

"For all the Rove-built facade of his being a 'strong' chief executive, George W. Bush has been, by comparison to even hapless Jimmy Carter, the weakest, most out of touch president in modern times," Gold writes. "Think Dan Quayle in cowboy boots."

Gold is even more withering in his observations of Cheney. "A vice president in control is bad enough. Worse yet is a vice president out of control."

For Gold, Cheney brings to mind the adage of Swiss writer Madame de Stael, who wrote, "Men do not change, they unmask themselves." Cheney has a deep streak of paranoia and megalomania, Gold suggests -- but he says he did not see it at first.

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