I'm about halfway through Hayes' biography of Dick Cheney. It's rather a good thing that I'm listening to it rather than reading it. I think I might be a bit more bored by the book. I thought that perhaps Dick Cheney was going to be a fascinatingly complex guy, but it turns out that he's not. He's got a very strong stripe of Midwestern competence, of cowboy grit, of puritan low-key. In other words, he is nowhere near as dubious or extraordinary a character as we've all be led to believe. Perhaps what is most extraordinary about Cheney is that he makes perfect sense as a straight character of exceptional competence who hasn't been distracted by power. At least not halfway through the book.
He's very likable but in a non-heroic way. If Colin Powell were to have had someone else write his book, it might have been half as long and very much like Cheney's, I think. What's common between them is that they simply do all the work and they don't spend a lot of time complaining about it. Where are Colin Powell's rules?
1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
You wouldn't think that such a small set of terse axioms could create the kind of success that Powell created. And yet I think Cheney's set would be smaller still.
What's striking about Cheney is his apparent lack of personal political ambition. He seems to be something of a machine - he just does what's set in front of him without any arch schemes. One is put in mind of a kid walking through a snow field looking only a few yards ahead of their own feet instead of at the fencepost over yonder. Cheney does so and yet makes very straight lines.
There's also an expectation of competence instead of ideology that comes from Cheney's direction. Working for Gerald Ford seems to have set him on a path that seems to defy partisanship. There seem to have been a set of reliable Democrats, notably Henry Hyde, that made Cheney's sensibilities not seem so extraordinary as they seem in today's red vs blue landscape. I notice some of the same names that I'd
always respected, Sam Nunn, George Schultz popping up from time to time as well as others I've never heard written about in ways you don't often hear. Neutrally and with regard to their skills, rather than the appeal of their political profile and opinions. One notices of Cheney, he's not the sort who tells funny little stories that illuminate the character of his peers, superiors or subordinates. For him, it's all about the work.