What we know about one man's heart.
Fantastic to hear a new perspective! Of course I'm far too young to know about a Dick Cheney beyond the heartless personification of war-mongering chicken hawks he became in his elderly years.
It doesn't seem fair to give credit for a shift in perspective when something they previously decried happens to them or their family. Like McCain "heroically" returning from serious medical treatment to veto a bill that would've taken away the same privilege from millions of Americans, Cheney's own daughter's experience was needed to wake him up to the experience millions of other Americans have every day.
"Perhaps others ARE worthy of empathy, even if they differ from me" is a pretty sad realization for a man in his 70s to make - isn't that a developmental step we expect from 5-10 year olds?
For me, the only way to think of Dick Cheney in anything resembling a charitable state of mind is to consider his life a tragedy. Starts off honorable (albeit misguided). The character flaw of ambition leads him to misuse a position of trust to manipulate a waif who could not think for himself. Finding himself empowered, the ambition grows with a desire to overmatch all those in whose service he once was, showing them all he has the steel to lead. He thus engages in heinous acts. He is overmatched by events and shown to be both cruel and ineffective. The bullying style he exemplified while in power itself empowers those who should be his allies to instead turn into enemies who attack his family. He flails about trying to protect his family when they act with the honor he long ago abandoned to his ambition. All that is left is the final heart attack and the curtain to close. The irony may be that only James Fallows is left to deliver the eulogy.
Mr. Fallows, this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you. Most important, you made it clear that you weren't repeating what you heard - you were speaking of personal experience with Mr. Cheney, rendering a legitimacy to your words that few can match.
I call myself a "Gerald R Ford Republican" though GHW Bush was the last Republican I voted for. I turn 70 tomorrow, and though I've lived 40 minutes away for the past 4 years I just visited the GR Ford Museum for the first time last week. I grew up in West Michigan; my mother attended South High School, Ford's HS. I was working for Amway Corporation in Ada when Ford became president; two of his closest pals were the co-owners of Amway. I could go on, but you get the idea.
When I was nearing the end of my Ford Museum visit, sitting listening to the eulogies, I had tears streaming down my face. Ford & Carter became fast friends while campaigning opposite one another, and Carter's eulogy was what prompted the waterworks. Both men exemplified an era that we Americans have thrown to the pigs: a time when America chose men and women of integrity and character to be our leaders, instead of the grotesque carnival barkers we see in office today. The difference between then and now could not be more profound.
And so yes, it is encouraging, after his many sins during the Bush II years, for Dick Cheney to at least appear to be the same sort of man of character I remember Ford and Carter to be. Like you, I disagree with just about everything he and his daughter stand for, but I respect both for their principled stand against the most evil charlatan this nation has ever seen. So thanks again for this brief but moving personal reflection.
PS - your quote on young/old, liberal/conservative goes way back, and has passed through a number of iterations. I once referred to Churchill's alleged version when saying my life followed the opposite trajectory, which would seem to indicate that I have neither heart nor soul. So perhaps my 70's - and Cheney's 80's - will bring just a tiny glimpse of that wisdom that is supposed to come with age.
I must admit my first temptation when I saw Dick Cheney's comments on Trump was to dismiss them because like Jim Fallows, I have long considered his actions as Vice President to have been profoundly dangerous and corrosive to American democracy.
But I held off saying (or Tweeting) anything and after reading this piece, I'm glad I did.
thank you for sharing the personal flashbacks, so interesting!
Liz Cheney has the courage to stand up, and many intelligent, responsible GOP Members do not. At the precipice, where our country is at risk, VP Cheney is speaking out. Respect must be paid.
Legacy of a war hawk, why we were marching in 1968:
"War Hawk, in U.S. history, any of the expansionists primarily composed of young Southerners and Westerners elected to the U.S. Congress in 1810, whose territorial ambitions in the Northwest and Florida inspired them to agitate for war with Great Britain. The War Hawks, who included such future political leaders as Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, fiercely and aggressively resented American economic injuries and national humiliation during the Napoleonic Wars. They were further indignant over British encouragement of Indian hostilities toward settlers in the Northwest and hoped to use war with England to wrest Florida from Spain, Britain’s ally. The nationalistic fervour and anti-British sentiment whipped up by the War Hawks was a contributing cause to the War of 1812." Britannica
August 2, 2022: “Humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday.
- Humanity at "Doom's Doorstep" Says Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
"The Doomsday Clock, a symbol of "how close we are to destroying our world," remains at 100 seconds to midnight."
January 20, 2022
article: Top scientists responsible for the "Doomsday Clock" issued a stark warning Thursday about how close the world is to catastrophe due to the climate emergency, nuclear weapons, and "disruptive technologies in other domains."
"The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us about how much work is needed to be done to ensure a safer and healthier planet."
Launched by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 as a symbol for "how close we are to destroying our world," the clock remains at 100 seconds to midnight for the third year straight. The closer to midnight, the greater the risk of "civilization-ending apocalypse."
The clock is set each January by the bulletin's Science and Security Board (SASB) in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates. They warned Thursday that humanity is "at doom's doorstep," which "is no place to loiter."
"100 seconds to midnight reflects the board's judgment that we are stuck in a perilous moment—one that brings neither stability nor security," said SASB co-chair and George Washington University professor Sharon Squassoni. "Positive developments in 2021 failed to counteract negative, long-term trends."
Rachel Bronson, the bulletin's president and CEO, made clear that the clock's current setting signals the need for immediate and globally coordinated action.
"The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us about how much work is needed to be done to ensure a safer and healthier planet," she said. "We must continue to push the hands of the clock away from midnight."
I don't waste time and energy hating a lot of people, but this guy I truly despise, along with the rest of his neocon cohorts. But you make good points. If he apologized for his part in the Iraq debacle, maybe I could find it in my heart to forgive him. Maybe.
As for his daughter, I disagree with her on almost every issue, but she and Bennie Thompson have won my admiration and respect. For one brief moment in time, they have made Congress work in the way it always should and almost never does.
How beautiful to look at the trajectory of a life and see it in its fullness, though I don't ever think I can forget the crew that led us into a disastrous and needless war. I, too, appreciate the perspective. Thank you.
This post gives me a new perspective on Dick Cheney. Thank you.
Thanks for the reminder of life's passages, Jim. You have it over Gail Sheehy. And for the new way to look at the man.
This is a fabulous piece. One of your best. Dan