The Cheney Nobody Knows

Chris Matthews made a giant breakthrough tonight: He pronounced Dick Cheney’s name right. CHEE-knee. Rhymes with Meany. That’s how Cheney’s family pronounces his name. I heard his wife say it that way at the 2004 convention. And after Cheney’s hunting accident, when the Wyoming legislature had him in as a form of political succor, the speaker welcomed him with the same pronunciation. Chee-knee. Everyone else says CHAY-knee.

There’s a larger point. Six years into the most disastrous administration anyone can remember, with a vice president regent, or so it’s alleged, and we don’t know his name. Cheney likes it that way. “I’m a private person,” he told NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell yesterday. Go to the New York Public Library website; there are no biographies of Cheney. None. The only thing that comes close is James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcans, and it’s about a lot of people.

I’d like to know more about Cheney getting thrown out of Yale, Cheney working as a lineman in Wyo, and, most important, Cheney’s life in the American Enterprise Institute, what happened there to alter his thinking, just when he drank the neocon koolaid. And how, to again quote Col. Larry Wilkerson’s talk at the Middle East Institute—how Cheney became a “paranoid.”

Everyone talks about Cheney’s power. The “toxic Buddha,” Observer editor Peter Kaplan called him. Great image. But that’s all we have, imagery and mythology, not knowledge.