The Truth About Bush (and Cheney)
By PETER BAKER
November 22, 2013
On the evening of the 2000 presidential election, as the vote counting stretched late into the night, a weary Dick Cheney slipped into his hotel room in Austin to lie down. But his rest was soon interrupted when word arrived that Al Gore had just conceded. Cheney was awakened and told, albeit prematurely, that he had just been elected vice president.
But who woke him up?
In his memoir, In My Time, Cheney recalls being roused with the news of Gore’s concession by his daughter, Liz Cheney.
Mary Cheney, Liz’s sister, remembers it differently in her book, Now It’s My Turn. She writes that their mother, Lynne Cheney, was the one who stirred the future vice president.
Nick Brady, an old friend from the first Bush administration who was in the hotel suite that night, recalls being the one to interrupt Cheney’s repose. And then there is Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming senator and longtime Cheney friend, who believes he was the waker. “Get up, bastard!” he remembers calling out. “You’re the vice president of the United States.”
The disparate memories of that night take on a little more meaning these days as the Cheney clan and its friends fracture over gay rights. While supportive of her lesbian sister when Mary thought about quitting the 2004 campaign because of Bush’s support for a ban on same-sex marriage, Liz Cheney, now running for Senate in Wyoming, says she opposes legal recognition of such unions. Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, have implied Liz never used to be against it and in fact welcomed their marriage. Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, have weighed in to affirm that Liz has indeed always stood against same-sex marriage. But Simpson, increasingly estranged from the family, says Liz is doing whatever it takes to win an election.
The conflicting accounts underscore the challenge in reconstructing the story of any presidency. In both big details and small, the major players often remember events quite differently, sometimes out of obvious self-serving motives but quite often just due to the natural reality of flawed human memories. In writing Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, a history of the last administration told through the prism of the relationship between its two major protagonists, I found that one of the most daunting tasks was trying to reconcile varying versions of what happened when.
Did CIA Director George Tenet give Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, a stark warning about a coming terrorist attack two months before Sept. 11, 2001? Did Bush authorize Cheney in advance to order the military to shoot down any further hijacked planes after the first ones hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Did Attorney General John Ashcroft agree to reauthorize a controversial surveillance program before changing his mind? When did Bush first broach the idea of an invasion of Iraq?
In coming years, the Bush archives will divulge the papers and emails that may help us set the record straight, but until then, in the course of six years of research, I relied on nearly 400 interviews with about 275 key players, along with notes and other documents they gave me and a bibliography of some 200 books, including a host of I-was-there memoirs. It may be that the Bush-Cheney administration produced more memoirs than any in history. Of course, the major figures all published books, including Bush, Cheney, Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and Laura Bush, as well as numerous Cabinet secretaries and an array of generals.
"Accounts vary over whether Cheney, in the White House bunker on Sept. 11, received permission from Bush on Air Force One before ordering the military to shoot down suspected hijacked airplaces that did not respond to orders on land," writes Baker. Above, Bush and Cheney talk to each other on Sept. 11, 2001. | White House Photos/Reuters
continued at link