The Washington Post published its player-hating book review of Dick Cheney's memoir In My Time on the front page of Tuesday's Style section, by Robert G. Kaiser, the former number-two editor of the paper. The liberal media elitism sneers at Cheney and "one of the most hapless administrations of modern times." Cheney failed to explain "this pugnacious administration and the world-changing messes it left for its successors to clean up."
The Post summed it up on the paper's front page with this blurb: "Regrets? Don't look here. Robert G. Kaiser finds the former vice president's memoir to be a familiar recitation of historically dubious accounts of the Bush years.-- long on self-justification, short on self-examination."
So Mr. Kaiser, the news media never defends its own messes -- for example, the Post trying to sell access to its own editors -- with a tone its critics would find "long on self-justification, short on self-examination"? Kaiser fails to acknowledge the depth of media hatred for this man, and how a memoir might serve as a rare attempt to tell his own story without some liberal editor screaming in his face that everything he did was a "fiasco."
This is how Kaiser began:
If this book were read by an intelligent person who spent the past 10 years on, say, Mars, she would have no idea that Dick Cheney was the vice president in one of the most hapless American administrations of modern times. There are hints, to be sure, that things did not always go swimmingly under President George W. Bush and Cheney, but these are surrounded by triumphalist accounts of events that many readers — and future historians — are unlikely to consider triumphs.
This is not surprising. The genre of statesman’s memoir rarely produces self-criticism, or even much candor. Apparently, the point is to redeem your large advance from the publisher with a brisk, self-complimenting account of your life and times, with emphasis on your moment in the limelight. There should, of course, be a dash of “news” and a few frank passages about your true feelings — about others, not yourself.
We’ve now had three self-serving memoirs from the past administration: the memoirs of Bush, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney. Future historians who have the stomach to try to figure out what happened under our 43rd president will be frustrated by all three books, because none of them wrestles with the enormous issues raised by this pugnacious administration and the world-changing messes it left for its successors to clean up.
Kaiser also made a list of what Cheney didn't explain, including:
-- Why the war in Iraq went so badly from the moment that Saddam Hussein’s government fell, and how the one-word title of a book by former Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks came to summarize the entire enterprise: “Fiasco.”
Even Ricks started walking back from that assessment, titling his next book "The Gamble." Kaiser's take on Iraq sounds solidly based in Democratic boilerplate from 2006 or 2007 (like Harry Reid declaring we lost the whole thing), not in history. And there's this:
-- How his administration, or his friend Alan Greenspan, might have contributed to the Great Crash of 2008, creating the worst economic conditions in the United States in many decades. Cheney treats the crash as something caused by forces beyond the government’s control. He slips right past the foreclosures, job losses and other economic pain that the crash has caused, and that will be an important part of the Bush administration’s legacy.
Typically, Kaiser can never engage in the economic fiascoes of Jimmy Carter -- or how, exactly, the Obama administration is beating the Bush administration on improving economic conditions.