Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vice President Grandpa

It would be a daunting task to review Dick Cheney’s In My Time, all 527 pages. I found the history from this particular insider’s perspective to be fascinating. But it was a heavy read. It is lightened by some personal stories, and my favorites tended to be the delight this world leader took in his grandchildren. The book is written along with his daughter, Liz Cheney, so she may have influenced what got told. But I thought it would be worth humanizing Cheney with some family-arity. 

This first one is right after taking office as VP: 

During my first weeks as vice president I had another obligation to fulfill. The previous October, as the campaign was winding down, our whole family was out on the road full-time. After one late-night rally, my six-year-old granddaughter, Kate, climbed into the seat next to me on the campaign plane. “Grandpa,” she said, “if you win, will you come to school as my show-and-tell?” “You only want me if I win?” I asked. “Yep,” she answered. I had to admire the kid’s frankness, so we struck a deal, and on a snowy February morning, I was Kate’s show-and-tell. My impression was that most of her fellow first graders were more interested in my Secret Service agents than in Kate’s old grandpa, but I’ll never forget the huge smile on her face as I walked into the classroom (pp. 313-314). 

Following 9/11 the VP spent a lot of time in undisclosed locations, which seemed to fascinate the media, who made it something of a game to imagine where he was located. Cartoonists and late-night comedians joined in the guessing. But in reality, much of the time he was at the Vice President’s Residence, or wherever he was scheduled to appear that day. They just didn’t tell anyone his location; thus it was “undisclosed.” Sometimes it was his Wyoming home, where he connected by secure video teleconferencing technology. Often it was Camp David. In 2001 they spent Halloween there, along with grandchildren: 

Our granddaughters  brought their Halloween costumes, and my staff—Mary Matalin, David Addington, and Scooter Libby—handed out candy at their cabins, as did Lynne’s assistant, Laura Chadwick and the Secret Service agents manning the command posts (p. 338). 

Although this isn’t a grandchild story, one of my favorites was about his dog, Dave, a hundred-pound yellow Lab, that he brought along to Camp David: 

He loved roaming the paths and the woods, and I quickly got used to taking him everywhere with me. One weekend when the president had scheduled a National Security Council meeting at Camp David, I drove with Dave in one of the Camp David golf carts over to Laurel for breakfast. I parked the golf cart, and Dave and I walked down the path toward the big wooden doors of Laurel. I had briefing materials for the day’s meetings and the morning newspaper under one arm and opened the door with the other. No sooner had we walked inside than Dave caught sight of the president’s dog, Barney, a Scottie, and set off in hot pursuit. I couldn’t really blame him. Barney was only slightly larger than the squirrels Dave so much love chasing, but we didn’t want any permanent harm to happen here. I dropped my papers so I could get hold of Dave, who by now had rounded the corner into the dining room. I rounded the same corner to encounter some of the cabinet spouses who had also been invited to Camp David for the weekend. Joyce Rumsfeld, Alma Powell, and Stephanie Tenet, all seated for breakfast, were watching aghast as Dave bounded around the dining table after a furiously scurrying Barney. At about that moment the president appeared. “What’s going on here?” he demanded. It was not an unreasonable question. I saw a tray of pastries on the breakfast buffet, grabbed one, and hollered, “Dave, treat!” He stopped in his tracks, then I grabbed him and took him back to Dogwood, the cabin in which Lynne and I were staying. I hadn’t been there long when there was a knock at the door. It was the camp commander. “Mr. Vice President,” he said, “your dog has been banned from Laurel” (p. 338). 

My favorite granddaughter story involved using the secure video teleconferencing system (SVTS) from his home in Wyoming: 

On August 10 I was scheduled to confer via SVTS with a visiting delegation of Iraqi exiles opposed to Saddam Hussein. They had gathered in the ornate Cordell Hull Conference Room in the Old Executive Office Building, across the street from the White House. All of them had taken their places and were waiting for me to appear on the screen, when, unbeknownst to me, my four-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth, wandered into my office. The Iraqis were treated to images of Elizabeth jumping around in a pink princess outfit and making faces at herself as she watched her performance reflected back on the two-way video hookup. She was hustled off by my personal aide, Brian McCormack, before I arrived on the scene. I sat down in front of the camera and Scooter Libby sat down just outside of view. Unaware of the performance that had just taken place, I said to the delegation: “Greetings from Wyoming. I’m here with my chief of staff.” It was only after the meeting that someone explained why the Iraqis found that so funny (p. 386). 

Near the end of Lord of the Rings, my favorite part is when Sam Gangee gets up the courage to speak to Rosie. After all the stories told in song, the reason for it all is so that people can get on with their real lives—their families. I guess that’s what I’m sensing from this historical memoir. A lot of hugely important things happened, but the reason those big decisions mattered was so that we could best get on with our families. 

After spending a chunk of yesterday trying to get an image of my granddaughter on camera as an angel for our Christmas card, I am reminded that this is what real life is about. Nothing better.

No comments:

Post a Comment