Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joan Didion on Dick Cheney

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books features an article by Joan Didion about Vice President Cheney. Like most of the Bush administration, Cheney was a perennial loser. A poor student, he was sponsored for Yale by Thomas Stroock, at that time the part-time employer of Cheney's girl friend and future wife. (Stroock would later be appointed ambassador to Guatemala by Bush I, where he famously blocked an investigation into the abduction, rape and torture of an American nun.)

Cheney flunked out of Yale in his fourth semester, returned to Wyoming, took an undergraduate degree and, as was common in the Vietnam years, "did all the work for my doctorate except the dissertation." He moved to Washington, worked for a junior Wyoming congressman and, by a lucky chance, was taken under Donald Rumsfeld's wing in 1974, when Rumsfeld became Gerald Ford's chief of staff. Didion traces the origins of Cheney's "unitary executive" theory from Watergate through Iran-Contra to the present day, when he has made himself the first vice president in U.S. history to enjoy certain executive privileges. Didion fans will miss the stylistic flourishes and ironic wit that are the hallmark of her finest essays, but the article provides an excellent summation of Cheney's career.

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