WASHINGTON -- There are many targets in Dick Cheney's new book, "In My Time." But one that the vice president seems to relish chiding -- time and again -- is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sparred famously with the Bush administration over taxes and interrogation policy only to be burdened with the Bush legacy when running for the White House.
(Click here to see the biggest revelations from Cheney's book.)
The Arizona Republican's name first comes up in Cheney's memoir when the topic turns to McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) 2005 effort to rein in some of the abuses of the Bush-sanctioned interrogation programs. Cheney, the architect of those programs, barely hides his disdain in the book, insisting that McCain "lost his temper and stormed out of the meeting" he had set up with CIA Director Porter Goss to brief him on the intelligence gleaned from those interrogations.
"[H]is view of the program was certainly not unanimous among his fellow former POWs," Cheney wrote.
The real dig however comes many pages later, when Cheney describes the height of the 2008 presidential campaign and the backdrop of the collapsing financial markets. Cheney writes:
On September 24, 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced he was suspending his presidential campaign to come back to Washington to deal with the financial crisis. It was a move that frankly surprised many of us in the White House. After all, there really wasn't much John could actually do, and it seemed pretty risky to announce the campaign suspension and head back to Washington without being clear about what you could actually deliver. But we wanted McCain to win, so when he asked the president to convene the congressional leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the financial crisis, the president did it. He called Senator Obama, McCain's opponent, and asked him to be there as well. What unfolded that day in the West Wing was likely unique in the annals of American presidential contests.
When the president turned to Senator McCain to speak, he passed. Since he had called for the meeting in the first place, that was a surprise. After a few other people expressed their opinions, most of them negative, the president came back to McCain. This time he spoke, but only for himself. It was a marked contrast with Obama, whose words carried the authority of all the Democrats in the room. Senator McCain added nothing of substance. It was entirely unclear why he'd returned to Washington and why he'd wanted the congressional leadership called together. I left the Cabinet Room when the meeting was over thinking the Republican presidential ticket was in trouble.
Cheney's right. The sheer randomness of McCain's decision to suspend his campaign did, in the end, put one of the nails in the coffin. But Cheney -- who actually campaigned for McCain in his home state of Wyoming -- does the Arizona Republican few favors in his retelling of that story, instead choosing to distance him and the Bush team from that campaign altogether. At one point, Cheney writes that the McCain campaign refused to share its tracking polls with the Bush team once the senator's numbers began to "nosedive."
McCain, of course, has legitimate gripes of his own. Cheney and his policies, after all, were a giant weight on his presidential aspirations. But in a statement to the National Review Online, the senator chose to be magnanimous about the book's passages.
“I respect and appreciate Vice President Cheney’s leadership and dedicated service to our country," McCain said. "From time to time, we have had differences, as is typical for anyone in public life. I wish the Vice President well and that he remains in good health.”
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