George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.
It's not all that surprising that Dick Cheney has bitter feelings about George W. Bush, but the WaPo's Barton Gellman has an article today that fleshes those feelings out a bit: Cheney's disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues.
Angler: The Cheney Vice PresidencyBy Barton Gellman (Penguin Press, 384 pp., $27.95) As Americans prepare to choose a new president, it may seem a curious exercise to rehearse the manifest failures of the current one. But either Barack Obama or John McCain is going to be stuck with the burdensome legacy of the Bush years, and the rest of us will be too--possibly for a long time. The war in Iraq is still with us. So are Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The Wall Street cataclysm will ramify, locally and globally, for many months, perhaps years.
The Washington Post continues its excellent Dick Cheney series today with a look at, among other things, the vice president's role in shaping tax policy. The only problem is that reporters Jo Becker's and Barton Gellman's big-picutre conclusions sometimes don't match the excellent reporting. For instance, as part of a key early paragraph, Becker and Gellman write: "The president is 'the decider,' as Bush puts it, but the vice president often serves up his menu of choices." Unfortunately the story they have just told completely undermines this thesis.