He established a reputation as one of the most secretive vice-presidents in US history, largely shunning journalists and refusing to disclose the names of those visiting his West Wing office. But these days, the publicity-averse Dick Cheney is busily tapping away at a laptop in his home in McLean, Virginia, threatening to reveal all.
Cheney is writing his autobiography, one of a glut of Bush-era memoirs due out in the coming months. Others lining up to offer their account of the Bush years are the former president himself, his wife Laura, former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove and former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson.
Many political memoirs, such as Bill Clinton’s, have proven in the past to be a largely unrevealing, but the Bush White House was the most leak-free in recent US history and the upcoming accounts offer the intriguing prospect of new insights into the turf wars and internal battles over issues from Guantánamo, Iraq and Hurricane Katrina to the Wall Street bail-out.
One of the first to appear is Paulson’s account of the global economic meltdown, On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System. The book, due out this month, is expected to offer a glimpse at Bush’s reaction to the collapse of the Lehman brothers in September 2008.
In March comes Rove’s Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. Rove, the political strategist who helped get Bush elected, could answer questions ranging from the dirty tricks operations in the 2000 primary campaign, to the scandal over the leaking of the identity of a CIA operative.
Rumsfeld, the defence secretary whose decision to invade Iraq with a relatively small force, was blamed for the anarchy and insurgency that followed, offers up his memoirs in the autumn, as does Bush himself.
Bush’s account, Decision Points covers about a dozen key moments in the former president’s life, including giving up alcohol, nominating Cheney as his vice-president, invading Iraq and his slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
Steve Clemons, director of the liberal think-tank the New America Foundation, said the prospect of so many insider accounts was significant. “At the start of the Bush presidency, the US was still powerful: militarily, economically and even in moral leadership. What we saw was the collapse of that, and I want to see if there is any accounting. I think these books are much more important than other memoirs.”
He added: “I think the big issue in these memoirs is the degree that people use them to fight the battles of the Bush administration. Will the Rumsfeld-Cheney wing use it to get back at Bush himself and Condi (Rice)? I suspect Bush will not say much. I think he will try to smooth over some of the rougher edges of the rows.”
The publishing companies are largely coy about how much each will be paid. Bush is reported to have been offered $7-million, half of what Clinton received. Rove, now a commentator at Fox News, is reported to have a deal worth $2-million.
Rumsfeld’s publisher, Adrian Zackheim, who runs Sentinel, a New York-based imprint of Penguin said Rumsfeld had not been given an advance. The former defence secretary would be given a share of the revenue and planned to donate all of it to charity.
Earlier this year, Rumsfeld, who has kept a low profile since leaving office, told Associated Press: “This will be a story that will span my lifetime. It will be something that I will try hard to make very fair, honest and useful.”
Cheney’s book is not due out until next Spring, but is potentially the most interesting. Not only was he at the centre of most events, he is one of the most ideological members of the administration, and is unrepentant over decisions from waterboarding to the Iraq invasion.
Cashing in on political memoirs
Former deputy White House chief of staff’s book Courage and Consequence will be published on March 9 by Simon and Schuster’s Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint. Deal reported by US media at $2-million.
To be published in the autumn by Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin. No advance for the former defence secretary, share of proceeds to go to charity.
Autobiography, tentatively titled Decision Points, to be published by Crown. Deal estimated at $7-million.
Memoir due in the spring from Scribner. Deal may be worth more than her husband’s. US media put it at $8-million.
Scheduled for spring 2011. The former vice-president shares publisher with Rove. Deal estimated at $2-million.
$15-m advance for My Life, which sold more than two million copies.
Received $7-million for her memoir.
Has earned millions for the two bestsellers he produced before becoming president, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. – guardian.co.uk