Saturday, February 07, 2009

Angler by Barton Gellman

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency by Barton Gellman


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pretty bad-ass reporting and taut storytelling. Cheney set policy goals and accomplished them, is the essence of it, but how that happened it is still fascinating.

There is a large cast of supporting players -- Alberto Gonzales comes off especially badly -- but in a curious way it's the vice president's lawyer David Addington who dominates this book. Addington, who I've heard called "Cheney's Cheney," seems to be forever shouting at people in meetings, pushing through secret directives, holding fast to an ultra-radical idea of executive authority even as the rationales drop away. He was in some ways the enforcer, but he was also the ideologue, theorist and writer who helped to give Cheney enormous influence. At least through about 2005 or 2006, anyway. There was a rise and fall of Cheney's influence in the administration that gives "Angler" its shape.

There are a lot of anonymous sources throughout the book, which I suppose is a necessary evil. Still, I would have liked to know which "close ally of Cheney's" on p. 173 referred to the U.S. State Department "basically an al Qaeda cell." There are a bunch of other quotes that have a similar effect -- I don't doubt that the quotes came from someone important, but from a reader's perspective it's a bit of a distraction, because who is saying this junk?

Good book, good read, important piece of history. Cheney is contemptuous of the public record; without "Angler" we literally would never have known a lot of this stuff.

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