A Cheney Reaction: Gene Weingarten on Dick Cheney's Book Deal

Below the Beltway
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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, July 19, 2009

As soon as I heard that Dick Cheney had inked a $2 million-plus deal to write his memoirs, I called up his publisher, Threshold Editions, a conservative-leaning subsidiary of Simon & Schuster. When I said I had some questions, Threshold's publicity director asked me whether I was "pro-book": meaning, positively disposed to Mr. Cheney. After I indignantly declined to answer, she said Threshold's editors would reply only if my questions were pre-submitted.

This really steamed me. What were they afraid of? Sure, I am a member of the so-called, quote-unquote, liberal media elite. But so what? Do they really think that a national columnist for The Washington Post would be biased or unprofessional?

I've decided to pre-submit my 10 questions to Threshold Editions in the form of this column.

1. There have been books that were purportedly written by dogs -- "Millie's Book" comes to mind -- but these tend to be in English. Have you ever before published a book that actually, literally, consisted just of growling and snarling?

2. There has been a great deal of speculation in the national media over the years, mostly by me, over whether the former vice president is Mephistopheles or some other incarnation of the devil, such as Baal, the toadlike ruler of Hades, or Abaddon, demonic malevolence of the bottomless pit, the sultan of torment and despoiler of virgins, who in his pure form resembled a horse with a man's head, a woman's hair, a lion's teeth, a locust's wings and the tail of a scorpion. Will the author be addressing this sort of allegation at all?

3. May I presume that Mr. Cheney will be remunerated in his customary way: a gunnysack filled with unblemished human heads?

4. I notice that this memoir is scheduled for release just a few months after George W. Bush's memoir comes out. Is there any concern among the publishers that the Cheney book will seem redundant -- or will it be, as I suspect, the equivalent of getting a memoir from, say, Eisenhower, after his butler wrote one?

5. A few of the more controversial elements of Mr. Cheney's vice presidency have been his remorseless assault on the environment, his unapologetic advocacy of the dubious doctrine of preemptive warfare, his arrogation and usurpation of executive powers, his almost jubilant embrace of methods of torture, his contribution through malevolence and malfeasance to the virtual death of the Republican Party, and his destructive impact on America's moral standing in the world. My question is, can you estimate how many pages this book will be?

6. Calling on old debts from the lords of the netherworld, will Mr. Cheney attempt to get favorable blurbs from Rasputin, Machiavelli, Torquemada and Salome?

7. I see that Mr. Cheney is writing the book in collaboration with his daughter, Liz. I just wanted to say that is very sweet. (Pause for surprised, grateful response.) Couldn't get anyone outside the immediate family to sling the bull with a straight face, eh?

8. What precautions can buyers take to keep this book from bursting into flame should it come into direct contact with holy water, sunlight or the pure joyous laughter of a child?

9. In the acknowledgments, is the author going to express his gratitude and indebtedness to Aaron Burr, who dabbled in both murder and treason and has thus made it less likely -- though not impossible -- that Mr. Cheney eventually will be ranked the worst vice president in history?

10. Is Mr. Cheney going to use this book to settle old scores and deride his critics, on the theory that he who cackles last, cackles best?


Okay, that's it, Threshold Editions. I'd be happy to publish your point-by-point responses in a subsequent column, as long as you pre-submit them. That's so we can screen them for bias.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com.

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