A biographer gains rare access to Vice President Cheney but little insight into his psyche

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Dick Cheney may be a taciturn man, writes author Stephen F. Hayes, but the vice president can become animated discussing doomsday scenarios. In his new biography, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President" (578 pages. HarperCollins. $27.95), Hayes tells the story of the Cheney family, sitting around their new big-screen TV in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on a recent Fourth of July, watching the 1997 movie "The Peacemaker." Starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, the film is about a plot to blow up New York with a nuclear bomb. Partway through the movie, Cheney's wife, Lynne, entered the room and asked what was happening. The question was directed at no one in particular, but the vice president launched into "a 10-minute, scene-by-scene synopsis of the action," according to Lynne's brother Mark Vincent. She interrupted to clarify her question: "What's happening now?"

Cheney, writes Hayes, woke up on the morning of September 12, 2001, asking: when is the next attack? A lot of Americans woke up that day asking the same question, but while many have been lulled back into semicomplacency, Cheney has never stopped worrying and wondering and—it must be said—trying to do something about it. The vice president has become a kind of modern-day prophet of doom. He is seen by many Americans as slightly creepy, if not sinister. Of course, he could be right: Al Qaeda may well be, as recent intelligence reports suggest, gearing up for another and possibly more catastrophic attack. But what makes Cheney so dire, so animated by gloom?

You won't find a psychological explanation in Hayes's new book. A writer for the conservative Weekly Standard, Hayes is largely uncritical and essentially buys into the picture of Cheney-as-Stoic, a throwback to an ancient Greek warrior who can see the Fates gathering but grimly and bravely soldiers on.

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Randll Reese Besch - 7/26/2007

The reason why Cheney is so happy about another attack is that he and his cohorts will benifit mightly from overthrowing the tatterdamilon Bill of Rights for good. Bad for us though.

douglas w jacobson - 7/25/2007

Stephen Hayes is a thoughtful, knowledgeable and objective student of American politics and international issues. He has had remarkable access to not only the President and Vice President but congessional, intelligence and military leaders as well. Regardless of your personal political views, his study of Mr. Cheney is a rare glimpse into one of the most complex and powerful figures of our time.
Douglas W. Jacobson
Night of Flames:A Novel of World War Two