Liz Cheney: When Your Dad is 'Darth Vader'
What do you do when your father’s been pilloried but you’re convinced his policies will be vindicated by history? If you’re Liz Cheney, you help him write a memoir, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, in the hope of setting the record straight.
Anyone who has seen Liz Cheney on the political-talk-show circuit knows that besides being an attorney and a former State Department official, she is a proudly hard-core conervative and a warrior for her clan. Now chair of the national-security advocacy group Keep America Safe, Cheney has suggested to Fox News that President Obama found it “fashionable” to side with terrorists. Her leave-behind is almost always the same: that the policies of the George W. Bush administration were absolutely right.
Despite her loyalty, Dick Cheney remains one of the least popular vice presidents in American history (rivaling Dan Quayle), the government official whom critics from Hillary Clinton to Popular Science have compared to Darth Vader. That’s one reason Cheney urged her father to write his memoirs, and it’s why she has spent nearly every day for the past five years with him—taking dictation and line-editing his handwritten drafts, all the while slamming Starbucks skim lattes. “He does Grande skim. I do quad Venti—that’s four shots of espresso,” she says.
The book—In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir—was withheld from the press until its late-August release, so More could not interview Cheney about its contents. Instead, she talked about her motives for doing the book and her own warm view of the man many Americans found cold. She wants people to understand her father’s “amazing” backstory: At age 22 a college dropout who had been arrested twice for DUI, he then got his act together and by 34 was White House chief of staff. “For people who have only known him as a vice president,” says Cheney, “this book is a chance to have insight -into who he is as a person.”
Do you feel your father has been misjudged?
Certainly there has been a lot of criticism. That is why it’s so important to have a book like this one. He’ll say, “Look, here is what we did, here is why we did it, here’s our thinking behind these decisions.” It’s not easy to see someone you love criticized. [But] we laugh about the Darth Vader thing. Dad always reminded us that it just goes with the territory. I think it bothers us more than him.
You and your father seem especially close.
We are. The family has always campaigned together. We spent years traveling around Wyoming [the state he represented for six terms as a congressman] in a motor home. When he ran for vice president [the first time], my sister, Mary, was his personal aide, and in 2004 she ran the vice-president piece of the campaign. Both times I managed his debate preparation. And there are a lot of grandkid stories in the book. In 2002 we were in Wyoming when he was supposed to do a video conference with a number of [anti-Saddam Iraqis] in Washington. But before he could get into the room, my daughter Elizabeth, who was about three, did some dances. She had on a pink tutu, and she stuck out her tongue and entertained the Iraqis, who were on a split screen next to her image.
Do you disagree with any of his positions?
That’s part of what was interesting about doing the book together: having the chance to talk about what we have disagreed about over the years. When he was secretary of defense, he didn’t think women should serve in combat. I remember debating him about it. Now he recognizes that the nature of combat is changing, and I think our positions on this are more alike. We talked about Monica Brown, the young medic who earned a Silver Star in Afghanistan. My dad had been so honored to award her the medal, but then the army pulled her from the unit [because it was on a combat mission]. He doesn’t think that was the right decision.