Category Archive '“In My Time”'

06 Sep 2011

“In My Time”

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I just finished reading Dick Cheney’s In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir

Dick Cheney is clearly a better memoirist than his one-time boss and both predecessor and successor at the Defense Department Donald Rumsfeld. I still have not finished Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown which came out last February. I think that Cheney seems somehow more forthcoming, direct, and personally present in his recounting of his life and career in government service.

Most people, I’m sure, have seen reviews elsewhere noting that Dick Cheney did make a point of settling certain scores, noting the disloyalty of Colin Powell and his associates at the State Department toward the president and toward administration policy when the going got tough in Iraq, and highlighting the failure of Powell and his subordinate Richard Armitage to deflect a barrage of accusations of having outed Valerie Plame directed at innocent members of the administration which would have avoided a large-scale investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor, and ultimately the conviction on a secondary-level charge of Dick Cheney’s own chief of staff, Scooter Libby,when Powell knew perfectly well that Armitage himself was the source of the leak. Cheney describes Powell’s silence in response to press inquiries after a 2003 cabinet meeting with not actually openly phrased, but nonetheless withering, contempt.

He is perhaps even harsher in describing at length Condolezza Rice’s dishonest and ill-advised efforts to obtain some chimerical version of a non-proliferation deal with North Korea, and her discreditably enthusiastic willingness to participate in sham agreements with that nefarious regime at the expense of the safety of the United States and other nations.

Beyond those best known portions of the Cheney memoir, I found a few other interesting details.

On 9/11, Dick Cheney found himself being forcibly propelled out of his office by the Secret Service, which led him hastily to the safer location of the underground Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), deep beneath the White House. Dick Cheney provides an inadvertent testimony to the general competence with the government spends its billions and trillions when he describes the subsequent scene.

While we were managing things from the PEOC, another meeting was under way in the White House Situation Room. The PEOC staff attempted to set up a videoconference to connect the two rooms, and we managed to get images of the Situation Room meeting up on one of our screens, but we couldn’t get any audio of the meeting. We were getting better real-time information from the news reports on TV, but because of a technical glitch, I couldn’t hear those reports when the video of the Sit Room meeting was on display. I told Eric [Feldman, Cheney’s deputy national security advisor] to get on the phone and try to listen to the Sit Room meeting, but after a few minutes he described the audio quality as ‘worse than lisening to Alvin and the Chipmunks at the bottom of a swimming pool.’ I told him to hang up. If something important was happening upstairs, they could send someone down or call us direct.

Visions of the gazillions of dollars spent on custom-built high tech communications equipment and infrastructure for the Presidential Emergency Operations Center and the White House Situation Room swam before my eyes. Clearly, they could have just gone out to Radio Shack and done better.

In describing his early career as congressman from Wyoming and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Dick Cheney serves up one very provocative little nugget.

In May 1987 I received a call from legendary CIA counterintelligence director James Jesus Angleton. He said that he had something of vital importance to tell me and that it could be conveyed only in person. …

I called Henry Hyde, the Intel Committee’s ranking Republican and invited him to sit in on the meeting. A few days later, before our scheduled meeting, Jim Angleton died. I never learned what it was he wanted to tell me.

There is the plot of a great spy thriller right there in the story of the unconveyed Angleton secret.

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