Former Bush Counselor Dan Bartlett Unloads on Cheney: "Doesn't Do Touchy-Feely" or "Hug Babies"

05/14/2010 11:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2011

Washington Post reporter Barton Gelman's book on Dick Cheney is embargoed until Tuesday, although two excerpts have run in the Post on Sunday and Monday. But the publisher is keeping the rest of the book under wraps for a while.

Here is a gem from a still embargoed portion of the book (I obtained my copy through someone other than the publisher, and as such did not break their embargo): According to the book, Cheney turned down a request from President Bush to take charge of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, shortly after the Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005.

Gellman writes that Cheney simply turned down the president -- something then-presidential counselor Dan Bartlett apparently remains unhappy about until present day.

From the book:

Days after the storm had passed, when he finally returned to Washington from Crawford, Bush assembled his senior staff in the Oval Office. He was going to set up a cabinet-level task force, he said.

"I asked Dick if he'd be interested in spearheading this," Bush announced, "Let's just say I didn't get the most positive response." Bush nodded ironically toward the vice president, putting on a show for the others: Card, Rove, Bartlett, Condi Rice. His expression, the tone of voice, had a hint of edge. Can you believe this guy?

Anyone who had face time with Bush said he was smarter than the public believed, and meaner. He spared Cheney the thunderbolts -- Rove got the worst of them, when Bush was in a mood to yell -- but now and then aides saw the president give Cheney the back of his hand.

"Will you at least go do a fact-finding trip for us?" Bush said.

"That'll probably be the extent of it, Mr. President, unless you order otherwise," Cheney replied. He was the Cheshire Cat inverted, only the smile dissolving, the rest of him still in the chair.

As well as he knew the two of them, Bartlett had to fight an impulse to roll his eyes. Katrina was shaping up as a true catastrophe. New Orleans was four-fifths under water, and the Gulf Coast had suffered grievous losses of life and property. The leisurely pace of federal action was not doing a bit of good for Bush. "Cheney wanted nothing to do with it," Bartlett said. Looking back on that moment, the president's counselor remained of two minds:

Cheney was the Master of Disaster, one of the government's most capable emergency managers. "It would send a powerful signal of our level of concern" to put the vice president in charge, Bartlett said. Eventually, though, Bartlett came to see Cheney's demurral "quite frankly as pretty good judgment." Cheney "doesn't do touchy-feely," Bartlett said, "Understanding what people's problems are and showing compassion -- that is an important part of the job of being the representative of he president... He was not going to go down there and hug babies."

Of course, there always stood the possibility that the vice president believed that the hurricane and its high winds were in their last throes.

Murray Waas, "Cheney's Call," National Journal, Feb. 15, 2007.

Murray Waas, "Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks," National Journal, April 6, 2006.

Murray Waas, "CIA Leak Prosecutor Focuses on Libby," National Journal, Oct. 18, 2005.

Murray Waas, "The Meeting," the American Prospect, August 6, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Plame Game Redux," American Prospect, April 22, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Plame Game Over?," the American Prospect, April 6, 2005.

Eric Alterman and Danielle Ivory, "Think Again: Blogosphere to Mainstream Press: Get Off the Bus," Center for American Progress, May 21, 2009.

Damozel, "Rove to Cooperate?... or Not." Buck Naked Politics, Feb. 9, 2009.

Murray S. Waas, "The Case of the Gonzales Notes, " The Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Glenn Greenwald, "Salon Radio: Murray Waas,", Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas, "What Bush Told Gonzales," the Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas and Anna Schecter, "Bush White House Pushed Grant for Former Staffer,", June 24, 2008.

Brian Ross, Anna Shecter, and Murray Waas, "Justice Department Official Awards $500,000 Grant to Golf Group," ABC News, June 9, 2008.

Murray Waas, "The Paradox That is Scooter Libby," Huffington Post, July 27, 2007.

Murray Waas, "Internal Affairs," National Journal, March 15, 2007.

Jim Boyd, "Why Courage is Hard to Find," Nieman Reports, Summer, 2006.

Shane Harris and Murray Waas, "Justice Department Probe Foiled," National Journal, July 25, 2006.

Murray Waas, "What Ashcroft Was Told," National Journal, June 8, 2006.

Liz Halloran, "A Muckraker's Day in the Sun," U.S. News & World Report, May 15, 2006.

Murray Waas, "Why Rove Testified for a Fifth Time," National Journal, April 28, 2006.

Howard Kurtz, "Reporters in Glass Houses," Washington Post, April 16, 2006.

Paul Krugman, "Yes He Would!," New York Times, April 10, 2006.

Jay Rosen, "Murray Waas is Our Woodward Now," PressThink, April 9, 2006.

Dan Froomkin, "A Compelling Story," the Washington Post, March 31, 2006.

Murray Waas, "Insulating Bush," National Journal, March 30, 2006.

Murray Waas, "What Bush Was Told About Iraq," National Journal, March 2, 2006.

Amy Goodman, "How Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classified Information," Democracy Now!, Feb. 10, 2006.

Murray Waas, "Bush's Briefing About Joe Wilson," Whatever Already!, Feb. 2, 2006.

Murray Waas, "Iraq, Niger, and the CIA," National Journal, Feb. 2, 2006.

Murray Waas, "Why Novak Called Rove," National Journal, Dec. 16, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Jack Anderson: An Appreciation," the Village Voice, Dec. 13, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Senate Ethics Committee Clears Shelby," National Journal, Nov. 13, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Libby Testimony Key to Rove Inquiry," National Journal, Nov. 12, 2005.

Murray Waas, "Rove Assured Bush He Was Not Leaker," National Journal, Oct. 7, 2005.

Murray Waas, "While You Were Watching Katrina," Village Voice, Sept. 13, 2005,

Murray Waas, "What Now Karl?," Village Voice, Aug. 9, 2005.

Murray Waas, "An Unlikely Story," the American Prospect, July 19, 2005.

Jim Boyd, "Editorial Pages: Why Courage is Hard to Find," Nieman Reports, July 2006.

Murray Waas, "Ashcroft's Interest," the American Prospect, July 8, 2004.

Murray Waas will be writing more on his personal blog about Dick Cheney. Waas covered Cheney and the misuse of prewar intelligence by the Bush administration during the run up to the war with Iraq for the National Journal. Murray Waas has also written about the same issues for ABC News, the American Prospect, and the Huffington Post.

Murray Waas can be reached through his Facebook page.

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