Cheney’s Discerning Eye

by Tevi Troy

Robert Costa has already mentioned that Politico’s Jonathan Martin summarized some of the juiciest parts of Dick Cheney’s as-yet-unavailable book. One of the most interesting tidbits Martin mentions is Cheney’s clashes in the Ford White House with speechwriter Robert Hartmann.  According to the excerpt, Hartmann was a leaker, who once took “an internal memo whose drift he had not cared for” and “conveyed its contents straight from the president’s desk to the appreciative hands of Washington’s most-read columnists,” Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. Cheney came up with a way to clip Hartmann’s wings by “suggesting to Rumsfeld that Ford take Hartmann’s office space and make it a private space he could use away from the more formal Oval Office.” 

This is unsurprising, as Hartmann was notoriously difficult to deal with, and Cheney has publicly complained about the dysfunctionality of the Hartmann-led Ford speech-writing operation in the past. In a 1986 compilation of a Miller Center conference on the Ford White House, Cheney said that “one of the problems we always had, frankly, was trying to integrate the speech-writing process with the political process.”

A great example of this dysfunctionality comes from Hartmann’s book, Palace Politics. Hartmann records that he asked Dan Boorstin and Irving Kristol to prepare thematic outlines for a bicentennial speech, then prepared one of his own to go alongside them. He then sent Ford these multiple options with the names of the authors replaced with Roman numerals. Unfortunately, Hartmann recorded, “In fooling Ford, I have also fooled myself and history. I have lost my code key and cannot match all the names with the numerals.” This embarrassing tale was in Hartmann’s own memoir. Seems Cheney was right to try to maneuver this guy out of an office next to the president.

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