Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency

by Barton Gellman

Hardcover, 2008

Call number

352.23 G



Penguin Press HC, The (2008), Edition: First Edition, 483 pages


Dick Cheney changed history, defining his times and shaping a White House as no vice president has before--yet concealing most of his work from public view. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman shows how Cheney operated, why, and what he wrought. This is a work of careful, concrete, and original reporting backed by hundreds of interviews with close Cheney allies as well as rivals, many speaking candidly on the record for the first time. It is a study of the inner workings of the Bush administration and the vice president's central role as the administration's canniest power player. Gellman exposes the mechanics of Cheney's largely successful post-September 11 campaign to win unchecked power for the commander in chief, and reflects upon, and perhaps changes, the legacy that Cheney--and the Bush administration as a whole--will leave as they exit office.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This book, by a investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer prize for the reporting which gave rise to a series on which his book is based, is fascinating reading and, for anyone not aware of Cheney's powerful and doleful role in the Bush Administration, eye-opening. Cheney is shown to be the one mainly responisble for what Republican Dick Armey called "probably the greatest foreign policy blunder in modern times"--the invasion of Iraq. The book is full of carefully compiled information, fully sourced, and showing how grateful we should be that Cheney is now just a carping critic rather than in a position to do the nation greater harm. Chapter 12 is as thrilling an account as one can find and would be deemed improbable or incredible if it were in a novel--it tells of the effort to get Ashcroft to sign a document while in the hospital.… (more)
LibraryThing member reannon
Gellman's book is not a biography. It only deals with Cheney's time in office as Vice President. It does cover some familiar ground, but also surprising facts, personality traits, and events.

Cheney comes across here as indeed a man driven by his love of his country and to do what he perceives as right for the country, regardless of the costs and the politics. He is, in some ways, driven by ideology. One of his most fixed ideas was that the power of the Presidency was damaged by the fallout over Nixon and Watergate, and he was determined to increase the power of the Presidency by any and all means.

Yet Gellman places him in the pragmatist wing of the GOP rather than the neoconservative wing, despite the fact that the Iraq war was the neocons' wet dream. His explanation of why Cheney supported the war makes more sense than any other explanation I've seen. Cheney did see Iran and North Korea as more of a threat, but we would not be able to attack them without severe blowback. The response of China to an attack on North Korea was too uncertain and Iraq had a well-equipped army and the fourth largest oil reserves. So Iraq was selected for its "demonstration effect" - it would show the other enemy regimes that America could and would act (see chapter 9). Gellman doesn't say it, but Cheney seems to have miscalculated the time and effort involved in the Iraq war, and that Iran's position in the region would only be enhanced by removal of Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book is the depiction of the near meltdown of the government over the attempt to re-authorize the surveillance program over the objections of much of the Justice Department. We've all heard about the dramatic scene in John Ashcroft's hospital room, but Gellman gives even more detail and shows why this was one of the most important episodes in the Bush administration. First of all, the program was reauthorized without the approval of the Attorney General, and it came quite close to having several layers of Justice Department employees resigning over it, even many who didn't know all the details of the program in question. Gellman seems to think the administration would not have survived that kind of a loss and the subsequent Congressional investigations. Moreover, Cheney and his right-hand man, David Addington, did not sufficiently brief the President on the events, and Gellman seems to think Bush after this turned to Cheney less and to other advisers more. Cheney was also weakened by the loss of Scooter Libby.

All in all, a fascinating read. Gellman uses many sources, but relied heavily on interviews with as many people as he could, some of whom are anonymous - a necessary evil in a book like this. Future historians will find this book invaluable in understanding the Bush administration, as should citizens trying to understand why our government under George W. Bush has gone so wrong.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member blisssu
This book rearranged my opinion of the Bush presidency by revealing the symbiotic relationship and the unusual balance of power between the two men at the top. They each served the other's purposes. Bush, because he was not interested in details and didn't like to focus on the individual layers of complex problems, routinely lobbed those responsibilities to the VP or else ignored them and, by creating a vacuum, gave Cheney countless opportunities to apply his philosophy of leadership and unusual administrative acumen to execution of the national agenda. For Cheney, Bush's preference for concentrating on broader issues and his reliance on Cheney as a confidante resulted in an administration whose president was spokesman for an agenda set or at least thoroughly vetted by a vice president of unprecedented influence.

Gellman's ability to draw information from sources close to the vice president is truly impressive and part of what makes this book so compelling. His revelations are all the more fascinating because they are written in the clear, succinct language that we hope for from journalists but don't always find.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
The man is truly the Prince of Darkness.
LibraryThing member Eye_Gee
I didn't like this book because I like Dick Cheney, I liked it because it finally satisfied my curiousity about how things worked during the Bush/Cheney years. It was fascinating to read how Cheney, in true Machievellian fashion, used his knowledge of how government works -- gathered over years as an administration insider -- to move forward his own agenda, often without Bush's full understanding of what was going on. He was brilliant and masterful at manipulating information and people to get his policies adopted, without things being tracable to him. The book gives a clear sense of Cheney's motives and philosophies, and where he and Bush differed. He was brilliant, devious, secretive and powerful. Too bad his ideology was so negative.… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
This detailed look at the Cheney vice-presidency comes across as a balanced, but damning, look at the consummate staffer's eight years as vice president of the United States. Some of what Gellman documents will surely provide fodder for later analysis, so this is a book well worth reading.




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