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Dorian de Wind

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Dick Cheney's Last Word

Posted: 01/27/11 03:38 PM ET

Former Vice President Dick Cheney -- noticeably leaner but otherwise looking quite well, considering he underwent major heart surgery only six months ago -- has been making the rounds once again after having been out of the spotlight for several months.

While still criticizing the Obama administration, albeit with a weaker voice and without so much combativeness and brashness, Cheney seems to be more interested these days in claiming his place in history and in promoting his upcoming book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.

Considering the oft-reported tensions and serious policy differences and disagreements between Dick Cheney and his former boss and especially Bush's refusal to pardon Cheney's chief of staff and friend, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, it is not surprising to hear Cheney tell NBC's Today "I have a bit of the sense that I'm going to get the last word."

Considering Cheney's tenacity and displayed resentfulness, "the Darth Vader of the administration" probably will get the last word.

I am willing to bet, however, that Cheney's last word will not be the word "So?"

I would be very surprised if that little word is even mentioned in his upcoming book.

Why is that little word so significant?

Fast rewind to the March 2008 interview Cheney gave to ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

Naturally the Iraq war was the main topic, a war that had been raging for five years, a war that had already killed nearly 4,000 and injured more than 29,000 of our men and women in uniform, and a war that had already cost the United States roughly $600 billion.

When Raddatz asked Cheney what he thought about polls that indicated two-thirds of Americans believed that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and that the cost in lives was not worth the gains, Cheney disdainfully responded with one single word: "So?"

When pressed by the reporter whether he cared about the opinion of the American people, instead of bristling at the suggestion, Dick Cheney tried to emend his response by saying "I think you can not be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls." You know, those pesky polls that merely reflect the will of the people.

That answer, in my opinion, revealed more of Cheney's character and personality than any of his many grandiose, full-of-gravitas pronouncements. That one little word -- "So?" -- reflected how little regard Mr. Cheney had for the opinions of those who did not share his bellicose ideology.

Now that Mr. Cheney is contemplating how history will judge him, he might do well reflecting on the fact that very few people can recall entire speeches, entire interviews. For better or for worse, most of us remember only little "snippets" and "little words."

Take for example:

John F. Kennedy's "...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"

Mr. Cheney's own "I had other priorities in the sixties than military service."

Abraham Lincoln's "Four score and seven years ago ..."

Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Martin Luther King's "I have a dream ..."

Speaking of "single little words," how about General Tony McAuliffe's reply in 1944 to the German ultimatum to surrender: "Nuts."

If it is any consolation to Mr. Cheney, his co-president in the imperial presidency experiment, George W. Bush, also struggled with "little words."

Bush used similar contemptuous "little words" several months later, ironically in an interview with the same Martha Raddatz while discussing the shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad.

When Bush claimed that one of the major theaters in the fight against Al Qaeda turned out to be Iraq. Raddatz corrected him, "But not until after the U.S. invaded." Bush replied, "Yeah, that's right. So what?"

I don't know if Mr. Bush addressed this incident in his Decision Points.

However, Mr. Cheney who seems to be obsessed with what history will have to say about him, still has the opportunity to address his "So?" in his upcoming book.

It is rumored that Cheney will have plenty to say about his former boss, that he will express his views about Bush and about what happened during the eight years of the co-presidency very "forthrightly."

The question remains, will he be forthright about the real reasons we invaded and occupied a sovereign country. Will he be forthright about his perceived disdain for the opinions of the people he was supposed to serve. Will he be forthright about himself?