Bush, the Cheney's, and Sisters

I don’t normally like to take on the fine folks over at the Complete Reviews’ Literary Saloon. Mostly because they are smarter and better read than me (a key to life is to know your weaknesses). But I must confess I found a recent post quite disappointing. The post dealt with Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne and the re-issue of her book Sisters. The folks at the Literary Saloon are upset because apparently Lynn Cheney isn’t interested in having the book republished given its controversial content and the likelihood it will distract from her husbands election campaign. I really am not upset that they expressed their displeasure with this turn of events but I find their hyperbole a bit tired. Here is where they tie it all up into one neat slam on the Bush administration:

Still, the whole episode seems representative for the Bush administration: actions that are completely self-serving and just the opposite of the public interest are taken (the only one who benefits from the non-re-issue is Lynne, while there is keen popular interest in easy access to the book — and NAL (which apparently still holds the rights to the book) could have made good money by publishing it (helping the economy as a whole !)), and then ridiculous and alien-to-the-real-world explanations are offered for why the actions supposedly don’t harm the public interest (America’s used bookstores will be able to satisfy any possible demand).


I find fascinating the picture the left paints of Bush as an all powerful dictator running around thwarting the public interest at every turn. Anytime someone dissents in the media about some aspect of the Bush administration’s actions the conclusion, sometimes insinuated but often boldly stated, is that the Bushies will immediately seek to punish or silence the dissenting opinion. Given the fact that dozens of people seem to be getting rich attacking the president in books, movies, plays, radio, and television I find this a bit rich. If Bush is attempting to stiffle dissent he is doing a pretty poor job of it. But that is the irony isn’t it? Bush is a power hungry dictator AND an incompetent boob.

But using this ridiculously minor literary dust-up as a chance to disparge the character of the entire Bush administration seems petty and silly. Does Lynn Cheney really have a duty to ensure that a book she wrote is readily and inexpensively available to the public when it is highly likely that the media, and the public will attempt to use it against the Cheney’s and the President? Is there really a “public interest” involved in this? If there wasn’t a lesbian scene involved no one would care one bit about the book.

I know most of the left leaning blogs are probably tired of me bringing this up and could really care less what I think about it. But given that everyone feels free to air their political opininons freely I shall feel free todo the same. Plus, it still bugs me that almost no opportunity is left un-used to throw a cheap shot at Bush and to insinuate that he is a dangerous threat to everyone’s civil liberty. And yet you never hear a peep about the ridiculous hypocrisy of John Kerry who loves to slander John Ashcroft with absolutely no concrete evidence of abuse and despite the fact that his Senate record is no better than Ashcroft’s when it comes to these issues. John Kerry can vote for the Patriot Act and then denounce it on the stump. He can act as the protector of civil liberties when his own record is less than stellar.

I understand that the Literary Saloon isn’t a fan of the current administration – and that is fine, I understand people have different views – but its seems rather lame to use Lynn Cheney’s personal choices about her book to cast aspersions on the entire Bush Administration. And to attempt to connect this to the situation in Iraq is below the usual intelligence of the Literary Saloon.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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4 Comments

  • Okay, it was a bit of a cheap shot, but entirely too good to pass up — and, I think, not quite as cheap as you suggest.

    For one, we could respect the author if, indeed, she admitted that she “isn’t interested in having the book republished given its controversial content and the likelihood it will distract from her husbands election campaign”. That’s not how she and her representatives have expressed it — not anywhere close, not any time.

    Second, we don’t “use Lynn Cheney’s personal choices about her book to cast aspersions on the entire Bush Administration” — we merely express the opinion that this case seems to mirror — near-perfectly — the general modus operandi of the administration. And we stand by that.

    Publication would be in the public interest — a base interest, perhaps, but no less real. The eBay bids seem proof enough of that. As we mentioned in our first post on this subject, we’re a bit ambivalent about authors’ rights in a situation like this — authors should be able to do as they like with their books, but on the other hand, once you sign it over to a publisher there should be a pretty good reason for pressuring the publisher not to exercise those rights (which in this case basically amounts to printing money for NAL if they had gone through with the re-issue — not a ton of money, but quite a bit of easy money nonetheless). This political pressure, and the urge to suppress what’s (theoretically) in some public domain seem, to me, typical Bush-administration behavior. (You might be right that “If Bush is attempting to stiffle dissent he is doing a pretty poor job of it” — but Lynne and her lawyers sure did a fine job: there was no reason other than political-economic pressure (anything from the carrot-and-stick pressure of authors who would/n’t come NAL’s way if they went through with it to actual political pressure) for the book not to appear.)

    But what really got to us is the excuse that was offered, worth quoting again: Cheney-attorney Robert Barnett’s claim that: “If there is a serious demand for this 25-year-old book, I am confident that America’s used bookstores will be able to satisfy it.” (That was the excuse that they gave — and the idea that it was not Cheney’s best work — not the fact that it might be politically embarrassing, etc.) If true, Barnett’s claim would have been a reasonable explanation and excuse — but as he surely well knew, the book is impossible to find at any reasonable price. And too often the Bush administration offers up exactly the same kind of reasonable-sounding explanation — which then turns out to be as irrelevant as Barnett’s claim.

    In the last week alone — leaving the Iraq-quagmire out of it — the NYTimes has reported on the Bush administration’s attempt to foist industry-friendly regulation on the country, with little or no public debate (including a new rule that would allow safety data about unsafe motor vehicles to be kept OUT of the public domain, because public knowledge thereof might cause “substantial competitive harm”) and the attempt to conveniently ignore charter school data “buried in mountains of data the Education department released without public announcement” (but, hey, at least it was made public, unlike so much that the public deserves to be informed about). All too typical, I’m afraid. (I know the above examples are more complicated than simple summary suggests, but the gist is almost always the same story — the public left out of the loop, with cheap or irrelevant excuses foisted on them when they get uppity.)

    Admittedly, not much hinges on the publication of “Sisters” — which again strikes us as typical: even the most trivial things are kept from an interested public in this administration.

    So maybe our comparison is “petty and silly” — it still seems strikingly apt.

    Note that I certainly welcome your political interjections — at least when there’s a literary angle (a bit of a stretch here, but that’s our fault). But I’m a bit amused by the implied lumping together of “the left” — and us lumped in with it. I often wonder how politics come across in our weblog and reviews, but note that our rare position-taking usually is limited to being: pro-capitalist (we constantly complain about how publishing is not treated like a proper business by any of the participants), anti-non-profit (not a position you see very much), extremely pro-free-trade, and vehemently anti-nationalist. That’s enough to make us part of the “left” ? Sure, we’re — simply put — anti-Bush; unfortunately that’s easily reconcilable with even just the above positions (Bush pretends to be pro-capitalist, but looks simply pro-big-business to us (something very different), illegal steel tariffs (not to mention farm subsidies) were an affront to the principles of free trade, etc.etc.) I note also that, as best I can tell (with a quick Google search) we’ve never even bothered to mention John Kerry’s name anywhere at the Complete Review. So it’s not like we’re running a fan club for that guy (and we’d welcome blog-mentions of his faults — such as his recent turn as poetry critic). It’s simply that we disagree with almost everything the current resident of 1600 Penn. Ave. and his cronies get up to.

    Well, sorry about the length of the post — and the slight veering off course. But you brought it on yourself. And the right of reply and explanation — more than the Bush administration often offers — is much appreciated.

  • – Don’t worry about a long comments they’re better than no comments.
    – Sorry about the over generalization and lumping you in with “the left.” Most of the lit bloggers do seem to be on the left side of the anti-Bush team. I know conservatives who don’t like Bush too however.
    – In general I was just using this post as a jumping off point to complain about the stream of digs of this nature. It seems to me that anti-Bush folks are often very willing to simply ignore any faults of Kerry because they want Bush out so bad. Which is not particularly insightful nor useful but I wanted to get it off my chest.
    – Obviously we disagree about the general tenor of the Bush administration. While I don’t think he is perfect by any means, I certainly don’t think he constantly hiding important information from the public. But if you are willing to take whatever is in the New York Times at face value I can see how you would come to that conclusion.
    – Robert Barnett’s answer was lame but that is often what lawyers do for their clients. I have a feeling that an answer touching on politics or personal feelings would have stirred up further controversy. For some reason people really seem to dislike the Cheneys.

    Anyway thanks for the response.

  • uh, hate to break it to you, but lynn cheny isn’t running for anything. you might inquire as to when the dem nominee for top honcho, jfkerry, will allow his vietnam book to be republished. you may have heard of it, he calls his fellow soldiers war criminals and the cover features a mockery of the the flag raising on iwo jima, with the us flag upside down. no idea why he hasn’t rushed it into print…

  • uh, hate to break it to you, but lynn cheny isn’t running for anything. you might inquire as to when the dem nominee for top honcho, jfkerry, will allow his vietnam book to be republished. you may have heard of it, he calls his fellow soldiers war criminals and the cover features a mockery of the the flag raising on iwo jima, with the us flag upside down. no idea why he hasn’t rushed it into print…