Dick Cheney, Pro-Yacht

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Dick Cheney’s memoir is, unsurprisingly, heavy on details and ruminations about how high-level politics work. Take this observation from Cheney’s time in Congress – his first term overlapped with the end of the Carter presidency.

Carter made a big deal of getting rid of the presidential yacht Sequoia. He didn’t realize that far more than being an expendable perk for the man in the Oval Office, the historic vessel was a great tool for lobbying Congress. One of the most sought-after invitations in Washington during the Ford years had been for drinks and dinner with the president on an evening cruise on the Potomac. It was a tradition that when the Sequoia sailed past Mount Vernon, all aboard came on deck to join the crew in an official salute to the first president. Many votes were quietly won on those evening cruises.

Here’s something you can’t imagine a newly-elected Republican – or Democrat! – saying. In the age of austerity, they brag about the pay cuts they’ve taken, or the trips they’ve turn down, or the government buildings they’ve sold off. The fact that Barack Obama and John Boehner play golf sometimes – an activity that has, historically, been useful for businessmen etc. to smooth over deals – is supposed to be a huge political problem. No, the fact that governors and presidents get to use taxpayer-funded amenities is frowned upon by everyone. Except for Cheney, who is safely out of office, and who holds opinions about executive power that square nicely with this.