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Cheney, preparing his memoirs, unloads on Bush for bowing to public opinion

August 13, 2009 |  8:02 am

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is writing his memoirs. That in itself is something of a surprise, because Cheney has long -- and openly -- disparaged people who do. The presidency is owed loyalty, or anyway that was Cheney's view when folks like former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former White House press secretary Scott McClellan told tales out of school.

But now, writing his own account of his eight years as George W. Bush's vice president, Cheney is telling friends that "the statute of limitations has expired" on tensions between them. As Time magazine reported last month, Cheney was furious at Bush for not pardoning Scooter Libby, the vice presidential aide who, in Cheney's words, "was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder" by not disclosing all he knew about who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press.

Writing his memoirs out in longhand on yellow legal pads, Cheney is apparently sharing his recollections with groups of friends and associates, sort of prepping them for the disclosures to come in his 2011 book.

And, some of those friends have been talking to the Washington Post. After one group session, one Cheney associate told the Post's Barton Gellman that the former vice president is mad at 43 for being "shackled" by public opinion:

In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him. He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times -- never apologize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.

Some conservatives rebut the argument, noting that Bush was nothing if not stubborn in the face of political and public opposition. Commenting on the story, Joe Scarborough pointed out on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Bush was defiant about the surge in Iraq despite the polls.

But apparently Cheney, sometimes called the Darth Vader of American politics, even disagrees with his old boss about what constitutes a good book.

Told in one session that Bush, in his own memoirs, hoped to explore his personal feelings, Cheney responded that he had no intention of doing that.

"He sort of spat the word 'personal,' " said one person in the room.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Reuters

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