Tricky Dick’s truth

A FEW MONTHS ago I read my first political memoir. It was Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War by Robert M. Gates. Having never read a political memoir, I don’t recall why I started with Gates.

But I found it so interesting, I decided to plow on. Next up was In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir by Dick Cheney. Then came Donald Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown Deluxe: A Memoir. After Rumsfeld I was totally out of control, so I read Decision Points by George W. Bush.

Bush’s book is less a traditional memoir than the others. He took a different tack, focusing a bit on his life but primarily on several important decisions he made as president, and elaborating on them.

Bush’s book is my favorite so far. It raised my opinion of him considerably. Of course, memoirs invariably paint a positive portrait of its author, but even with that as a given, I still came away thinking highly of Dubya, as I often have called him, which now shames me.

I left the United States when Bill Clinton was president, so I observed Bush’s years in office from afar, but that’s not difficult in these high-tech times. I’m ashamed to say that I long embraced the left-wing (I am a fully recovered Democrat) notion that George W. was something of a dimwit, a lightweight, and that Cheney was the de facto president.

Simply was not so.

Gates seems like a good guy. Cheney and Rumsfeld have reputations as right-wing hard-asses, but knowing far more of their lives makes them more human, especially Cheney even if he is truly a right-wing hard-ass, something I do not hold against him these days, having become one myself.

After Bush, I had considered reading RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon but at 1,400 pages I decided no and opted instead to read Nixon’s Leaders: Profiles and Reminiscences of Men Who Have Shaped the Modern World. I’m just getting into that, and Nixon’s telling me about Winston Churchill.

Churchill was a writer of histories. I tried one of his histories recently and found it turgid.

Possibly next in the memoir list will be Condoleezza Rice’s No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington. The free Kindle sample sits in the sample file, one of the great aspects of the Kindle.

You may be thinking: What is it that inspired this post’s headline? Tricky Dick’s truth.  It was this quote I found in his chapter on Winston Churchill:

“The difference between politics before and after Watergate is striking … Today the chances of receiving much approval or esteem for accomplishments in public life are slim. The risks of glaring invasions of privacy are much greater, and the kinds of sacrifices and disclosures required for entering politics … have simply become prohibitive for many. This is bound to affect detrimentally both the quality and the number of men and women who are willing to present themselves for public office.”

nixonI have taken this position before, most recently in Newspaper days: Houston. I was quite surprised to see Tricky Dick parroting me. The quality of people in public life has fallen. This is true of both Democrats and Republicans,* and my former occupation — the news media — is responsible for that to a huge degree.

A nation reflects its leaders and the leaders are mediocre. The future looks very dicey.

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Bonus material: You likely noticed that all the memoirs mentioned are written by conservatives. Not to worry. A few days ago, occasional Moon reader and commenter Kim G. of Boston gifted me via Kindle with John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience. It is on my list, and I may actually read it, but I’m unsure when. It’s like gifting the Bible to the Devil. The Amazon book description reveals that Dean says conservatives are authoritarian and present a danger to democracy. We are evil people.

But I am sure that Barry Obama would agree with that.

Dean was one of the principals who tried to cover up the Watergate situation for Nixon. He admitted in court to forwarding hush money and confessed to obstruction-of-justice charges. He had earlier asked Nixon for immunity to the obstruction charges. Nixon refused, and Dean was fired. With this background it would be a bit hard to take his book knocking conservatives very seriously.

Smells of revenge.

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* Far truer of Democrats than Republicans, of course.

14 thoughts on “Tricky Dick’s truth”

  1. All the presidents since LBJ in the Vietnam era have incrementally destroyed the United States, some more than others. They have turned the office of the president into an imperial presidency and have turned Congress into a rubber stamp.

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    1. Andrés: The abuse of presidential power spiked enormously with Barry. And I do not agree that Congress is a rubber stamp. I doubt Barry would agree either. Which is not to say that Congress is doing a good job. It decidedly is not.

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  2. GWB, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Condi should all be in prison for war crimes…Nixon was the first and last Republican I voted for…basically a good man I think…but way too paranoid for his own good. If you weren’t such a “right-wing hard ass” you might balance your perspective by reading other points of view of those who were present during the GWB fiasco…Richard Clarke comes to mind…que tengas un buena dia…

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    1. Oh, Charles, what is to be done with you? I should read other views? I might conclude the same about you, dear fellow. Perhaps some news sources aside from Salon, Huffpost and Mother Jones.

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  3. Great read. Like all people, these personalities have some faults, but I believe they were sincerely working for the good of the USA.

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    1. Mike M: We are of one mind. People make errors. People on the left make errors, often due to embracing an untenable philosophy (socialism, redistribution, “fairness”), frequently due to lack of information. For example, as incredibly wrong-headed and destructive as I believe Barry Obama to be, I think he sincerely believes he’s doing good. If only he were. People on the right make errors too for a variety of reasons.

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  4. I was once an avid reader of memoirs. I stopped somewhere in the late 70s. Maybe I should take another look.

    You may recall, Cheney is a cousin. That, of course, makes Obama a cousin, as well. We are a mixed lot genetically.

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    1. Señor Cotton: Might want to take another look at that genre. Lots has happened since the 1970s. As for Cheney being a cousin, I see a family resemblance. Not so much with Barry.

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  5. I know what I said about taking the bait, but come on. The neocons GWB, Cheney, Rumsfeld (he served in the armed forces), Rice (the rest are chicken hawks) attacked the wrong country (no Iraqis on any of those planes) but lots of oil. Ended up making billions for Haliburton and other Big Oil companies putting us trillions in debt. What really stinks is when Cheney was asked about his five (5) deferments from Vietnam, he had the gall to answer that “I had other priorities.” I can think of more than 50,000-plus families that wish their fathers, sons, brothers and uncles had the same privilege. This chicken turned into a greedy hawk war criminal.

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    1. Francisco: You are quite right. The neocons you mention are clones of Himmler, Göring, Bormann, Hitler, etc. And few people know of the now-rotting remains of death camps hidden in the outback of Cheney’s home state of Wyoming where the Dubya administration gassed Jews, gypsies, hippies and homosexuals. And as for oil … who needs it?! We can live on fresh air and wind turbines.

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  6. Every thing is very clear in retrospect. But we have to judge the events based upon what was known at the time. If we play “what if” and plug in other factors, maybe those decisions made at that time do not look so bad.
    Things could have turned out better, or they could have turned out worse. “At this point, what does it matter?”

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    1. Señor Gill: I supported the invasion and ouster of Saddam before it started, and I still do. Intelligence agencies around the world thought he had WMD. It wasn’t just the U.S. And so what if he did not? He would have in time. He was a monster, and that he is now dead is a grand thing. The Bush crowd did muck up the end game of the war, poor planning, but it was back on track due to Bush’s surge when Obama took over. What’s happening over there now is on Barry’s back, 100 percent.

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  7. Looking on Google Earth, I can see where the U.S. succeeded and where they failed. If I see a baseball diamond, things went well. If I see a soccer field, well, not so well. Cuba and Venezuela are the exceptions.

    So far, I don’t see much interest in baseball in the Middle East.

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    1. Señor Gill: Well, that’s certainly one imaginative way of looking at things. Thanks. As for the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, I don’t harbor much hope for it.

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