Bush Speechwriter's Tell-All Widens and Exposes Bush-Cheney Rift

Former White House officials split over Matt Latimer's book, but it really may be about conflicting loyalties to their old bosses

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A tell-all memoir by former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer has buoyed Bush's legacy among liberals and drawn sharp criticism from some Republicans, including Latimer's old boss and one rogue Democrat. But amid the criticism, Latimer has won a couple of surprising boosters within his own party: Stephen F. Hayes, Dick Cheney's biographer, and Kevin Kellems, Dick Cheney's former communications director.

Why are sterling members of the "Cheney camp," as Ben Smith calls it, backing a Bush apostate? Jason Zengerle has a theory: because Cheney-ites still resent being marginalized by Bush. To understand the subtle political game being played here, you should really read Hayes and Kellems in their own words. Note who is praised, who is defended, and who is dismissed.

Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney's biographer:

Latimer is often critical of George W. Bush. In that, he’s giving voice to a large segment of the Republican Party disappointed in Bush’s profligate spending and second-term foreign and national security policy. But the book is not a hit on the former president and it includes praise for Bush on a variety of subjects. (Bush had “quite a good political mind,” Latimer writes in the excerpt.)

But one need not agree with everything in the book to appreciate the fascinating story it tells – from Latimer’s time as a dorky kid in Michigan to his crush on Kay Bailey Hutchison and his work at the White House. “Speechless” provides a valuable, behind-the-scenes look at Washington and the Bush administration from someone with experience on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and eventually the White House. It’s well-written and very funny. It will appeal especially to people who consider themselves conservatives first and Republican, if at all, second.

That’s why, despite the best efforts of the Republican establishment in DC to knock it down, it is selling so well nearly a week before it will be released.

Kevin Kellems, Cheney's former communications director:

It is a humorous, straightforward, in-the-room account of one idealistic young conservative’s eye-opening journey from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon to the White House.

People should withhold judgment until reading it. Veteran political communicators know full well that pulling a few quotes out of a few hundred pages can and almost always does present an incomplete, and even highly distorted picture. Clearly, its contents are being misrepresented. For example, the book does not say that President Bush didn’t know who Gov. Palin was. It captures with nuance that he had doubts about how tough the early going would be on a relative newcomer to the national stage — a prophetic analysis.

Jason Zengerle explains:

Part of this is probably due to the fact that, before he worked for Bush, Latimer worked for Don Rumsfeld (whom Latimer still holds in high regard)--and there are people in Cheneyland who are still aggrieved that Bush fired Rummy.

[...] As I've written before, the Cheneyites' belief that Bush's presidency went bad because he eventually marginalized them--and their related refusal to acknowledge that Bush marginalized them precisely because they had led him astray--is just gobsmacking.
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