(Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
When former Vice President Dick Cheney dropped out of Yale University after a short enrollment in 1959, it is doubtful this idealistic Republican thought he would one day influence American politics under presidents Nixon, Ford, and Bush.
But the political science major from Lincoln, Neb., did just that. And columnists, headline writers, reporters, and talking heads are having a field day with the politician turned author these days.
In his recently released memoir, Cheney takes jab after jab at not only political opponents but also at some fellow administration officials, including former President George W. Bush.
Cheney’s 576-page book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, hit bookstores this past week. Cheney told the media prior to its release that “there are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington.”
Cheney is not repenting here. He continues his media interviews with a mood of unapologetic support, not just for specific policies, but for private conversations, personality bashes, and political rhetoric revealed behind closed doors.
On issue after issue, he stands his ground.
Within the pages of his new book, he reveals personal conversations about America's political watershed moments that were never supposed to see the light of day.
There are also shocking details about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the decision-making process before the Bush administration decided to go to war.
Cheney writes about his heart surgery, other health problems, and reveals for the first time he worried that while in office a heart attack or stroke could leave him unable to fulfill his duties.
He wrote a letter of resignation that he kept in a locked safe to use if he became incapacitated, his memoir states.
Cheney told NBC's Jamie Gangel this past week that he did it because "there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice president who can't function."
In Cheney's interview with NBC News, he also reveals private details of a conversation with President Bush on the eve of the Iraq War.
In Bush's own memoir, Decision Points, he writes that he turned to his "team gathered in the oval office and said, 'let's go.'" But Cheney tells a different tale, writing, "The president kicked everyone else out of the oval office, looked at me and said, 'Dick, what do you think we ought to do?'"
Cheney was then asked if he thought the revelations would embarrass the former president. Cheney replied, "I didn't set out to embarrass the president or not embarrass the president."
Other political big hitters to feel Cheney's wrath in the memoir are John McCain, Condoleeza Rice, John Kerry, John Edwards, Colin Powell, and former and second-longest serving director of the CIA, George Tenet.
Cheney doesn't sugarcoat how he feels about former Secretary of State Colin Powell, writing that he believes Powell tried to undermine Bush by way of gossip and expressed his worry about the Iraq War in private conversations with others.
"It was as though he thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government," Cheney writes.
Powell recently fired back at Cheney telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the book is filled with “cheap shots.”
Most shocking are Cheney’s memories about the White House turmoil during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Critics and supporters of the book are examining this chapter closely due to the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Cheney says he "commanded the government's response from a bunker beneath the White House" because the president was away from Washington.
"My past government experience had prepared me to manage the crisis during those first few hours on 9/11,” Cheney writes.
“But I knew that if I went out and spoke to the press, it would undermine the president, and that would be bad for him and for the country. We were at war. Our commander in chief needed to be seen as in charge, strong, and resolute – as George W. Bush was."
Those whom Cheney takes on in his book are firing back now. On Thursday, Rice's publisher announced to the media that her memoir about her time in the Bush administration would be released in November. The announcement describes her book as "surprisingly candid in her narrative of the Bush administration and her colleagues," according to a released statement.
Political analysts say there is no doubt her memoir will tell her side of the story and will be quite different than Cheney’s recollections.
Another shocker in the book is when Cheney urged Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in June 2007.
"I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor," Cheney writes. "But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, 'Does anyone here agree with the vice president?' Not a single hand went up around the room."
The former vice president's support and defense of enhanced interrogation techniques against terrorist suspects in the book, including waterboarding, continues to stir claims that those methods violate international law against torture.
During one Cheney media appearance last week, a protester flashed a sign in front of a camera that read: "Torture is a Crime – Investigate Cheney."
Cheney told Fox’s Chris Wallace that he doesn't worry about his many critics.
"There are a lot of people out there who don't like me, don't like what I did in public life, disagree fundamentally with my views,” Cheney said.
“It's OK. It's a democracy.”