In the final days of his administration George W. Bush was preoccupied by presidential pardons, especially for I.Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame/Wilson investigation. Dick Cheney was passionately pursuing a pardon for his former chief of staff. Bush's refusal to grant a pardon further estranged them so that they had little contact after they left office.
Bush met Cheney in 1987 when he was a congressman from Wyoming and Bush was campaigning for his father, George H.W. Bush. Although from divergent backgrounds their experiences overlapped in several areas: Yale, the oil industry and Texas. Cheney lived in Nebraska and Wyoming as a child. He learned to hunt, mowed lawns and delivered newspapers. He was eight before his parents owned a car. They lived in a small house when he was in high school. He was rebellious in school but also was co-captain of the football team and president of the senior class. He won a scholarship funded by a friend of Bush senior who owned a local oil company. At Yale Cheney flunked out twice and was arrested for drunk driving twice. He returned to Wyoming where he attended a local college and the University of Wyoming. He married in 1964 and became a father in 1966. He stopped drinking after his wife Lynne confronted him. He then attended graduate school in Wyoming and Wisconsin. He was able to get deferments because he was a student and a father. He obtained a fellowship in Washington, D.C. where he met Donald Rumsfeld, who became a mentor during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
Bush was born in New Haven and moved to Texas so that his father could work in the oil industry. The Bushes moved around California and Texas before settling in Midland, Texas. Bush comforted his mother after the death of her daughter from leukemia. He attended the Andover Academy in Massachusetts before entering Yale. At Yale he partied and was president of his club. He then went to Harvard Business School where he also was rebellious and continued drinking. He returned to Texas after graduation and went into the oil industry. He enlisted in the air national guard. His wife confronted him after his arrests for drunk driving.
During the Clinton administration Cheney left government work, moved to Dallas and became the CEO of Halliburton, an oil services giant. Bush was governor of Texas. While campaigning for president in 1999, Bush asked Cheney to be a candidate for vice president. After Cheney refused he asked him to head a search committee and then asked him again. They formed an effective partnership with shared interests in the oil industry and in conservative Republicanism. They differed in style. Bush stressed his ability to work with Democrats while Cheney tended to pursue a more solitary approach. In the first months of 2000 Bush sought to reduce taxes while Cheney chaired a committee on energy policy whose meetings he kept secret. He sought to restore to the White House the power lost in the 1970's. They agreed on renouncing the Kyoto climate change treaty.
Their partnership appeared stronger after 9/11. Bush was in Florida when the planes hit the World Trade Center. He did not immediately return to Washington because of security concerns. Cheney directed operations from a bunker under the East Wing, Bush authorized him to order shooting down any hijacked planes. On his return Bush was active in authorizing the war on terror. He resisted Cheney who wanted to invade Iraq before the United Nations voted on it. A split developed in the administration between Cheney and Rumsfeld at Defense and Colin Powell at State and Condoleezza Rice who was the national security advisor. Powell and Rice were more concerned about Iraq after major fighting was over while Cheney and Rumsfeld focused on surveillance and the conduct of the war. The rivalry intensified when the war effort went poorly and people learned about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, enhanced interrogation techniques and domestic surveillance.
Rice replaced Powell at State at the start of the second term. She encouraged Bush to rely on diplomacy instead of confrontation. Cheney objected to modifications in detention and surveillance policies. He disagreed with their approach to North Korea and thought intervention in the Middle East was futile. Bush eventually replaced Rumsfeld with Robert Gates who worked with Rice. Bush and Cheney agreed on the surge.
As for domestic policy Cheney did not participate in the social security and immigration reform agendas. In 2008 he backed the TARP program and the bailout of Wall Street firms but was less enthusiastic about the plan for the auto industry.
Bush's style evolved from the bravado of the first term to a more conciliatory approach in the second. Although late Bush supported the reconstruction of New Orleans after Katrina and supplying HIV/Aids medication to Africa. During his years in office Cheney had a heart attack and had to have a defibrillator/pacemaker placed in his chest.
On their last day Bush did not look back after he left the White House. He said farewell to Cheney and his staff at Andrews Air Force Base and headed for Texas. Cheney went home to Wyoming. Since then Bush has made few public appearance while Cheney had a heart transplant and has been active in supporting the policies of the first term.
Best part of story, including ending:
Liked the narrative's focus on the interplay between the two men and their staffs. The author also was able to present a full picture of Bush.
Best scene in story:
The best scenes were in the White House in the months after 9/11 when policies were being formulated and Bush addressed the public. The administration's response to the 2008 recession was also well presented.
Opinion about the main character:
Bush came off as a person who held on to his beliefs but was aware of the impact of his policies on others. He appears a more nuanced character than Cheney who seemed remote and/or was ill.