Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blackmail and Backchannels

In these heightened days of diss-finishing and job-applying, I don't have time to read much -- in fact, expect my reading/writing of blogs to tail off for a while in the next few weeks -- but if I could buy a book unrelated to modernism or cinema right now, it would be Barton Gellman's Angler, which contains scoop after scoop after story after unbelievable story from Dick Cheney's Vice Presidency.

Here are excerpts from Gellman's book and links to the original Washington Post series Gellman wrote with Jo Becker.

Here is Jon Stewart's interview with Gellman on The Daily Show:

You can also listen to Gellman's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Last, Scott Horton's interview with Gellman in Harper's is pretty astonishing:

You open the book by recounting the role Cheney played as manager of George W. Bush’s vice-presidential selection process. Cheney, you suggest, milked this position for all it was worth–he gathered compromising information on more than a half dozen figures at the pinnacle of the Republican Party. Do you consider Cheney’s handling of the vice presidential vetting process to cast any insights on Cheney’s later conduct as vice president?

A candidate for the presidential ticket expects to be put under a microscope. Even so, the process that Dick Cheney designed was strikingly intrusive. For one thing, he did not rely on trust. He asked people like Bill Frist, Tom Ridge, and John Kasich to give him direct access to their FBI files (ironically, by way of the Freedom of Information Act, which Cheney has never liked) and to sign waivers of privacy for all health records without exception. He asked the contenders whether there was something that would make them vulnerable to blackmail—and if so, what? (I imagine a sensible person would bow out rather than answer “yes” to that one.) All this has a certain logic: You don’t want a blackmailable commander-in-chief (or understudy), and campaigns don’t want unpleasant surprises.

The news in my book about this process is that Cheney never filled out his own questionnaire; that the heart surgeon who vouched for his health never met him or looked at his records; and that Bush and Cheney never interviewed anyone for the job until Cheney already had it nailed.
That's just the first question.

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