“Willie Horton, Gennifer Flowers and me.”
I read Mary Cheney’s “Now It’s My Turn” on the flight from California to Chicago this morning, and it is very, very good political memoir, full of fresh anecdotes, sharp observations and funny asides. Except for her disagreement with President Bush on the Federal Marriage Amendment, it is not a book on particular policies, but rather a memoir of life growing up in a political family and then of the two Bush-Cheney campaigns, in each of which Mary Cheney had a crucial role. Entertaining from the start, it is also so candid as to surprise often.
Not only is Cheney an insider in the campaigns of 2000 and 2004, with all the access anyone could want, she’s also a gay woman with a partner who becomes an issue in the campaign itself –which gives rise to her line about other names from campaigns past. That line, tossed out to a young staffer who thought it must be cool to be part of the national conversation, as well as many other stories, display the dry humor she learned from both parents and which undid Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in succession. The temper that her mother flashed after John Kerry decided to use Mary Cheney as a campaign prop is also on display in the daughter.
The book is distinct from almost all other such memoirs because it is so unguarded. Presidential campaigns are roller coasters, and both of hers had had their shares of dives as well as climbs, and twice she has seen election day and election night become election tomorrow. It is as “first-person” as possible as only a child could be this close to the candidate.
Because of Cheney’s unique perspective and proximity to the inside of the business of American politics at the highest levels, this would be an excellent book for teachers and professors to assign to their incoming political science/government students, even as it will sell simply as an insider’s account of some tumultuous times. The practical insights into the day-to-day business of moving the carnival from town to town are certain to hook a novice even as the small details will enrich jaded observers’ understanding of what actually happened. (The Vice President’s approach to the New York Times is particularly refreshing, and Mary Cheney’s summary of the change in media is compelling.)
Great fun in most parts. Provocative in others. Read it for the portrait of the Cheneys, all four, and of their friends, staff and opponents.