Cheney right in 'cheap shots' row, ex-aide says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am


Former US vice-president Dick Cheney may be under fire from his old White House colleagues Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice for taking 'cheap shots' at them in his new memoir, but a one-time Cheney aide visiting Hong Kong has defended his boss's remarks.

Stephen J. Yates (pictured) was deputy assistant to Cheney for national security affairs from 2001 to 2005, and in town yesterday as a guest speaker at a presentation arranged by Republicans Abroad Hong Kong at the American Club, Central.

Published on Tuesday, Cheney's book, In My Time, includes critical observations on Powell and Rice, both of whom clashed repeatedly with George W. Bush's powerful deputy.

'You cannot have people [in an administration] who are running their own policy and, in my own humble opinion, Colin Powell was running his own policy and no one elected him,' Yates said. 'It wasn't just my view - it was other people's view as well at that time. But, the same can be said about rivalries that happened in other administrations.'

Yates said the relationship between the former vice-president and Powell could get frosty but remained professional, even though the pair differed on the forceful foreign policy favoured by Cheney. Problems emerged when Powell failed to raise disagreements at important meetings, only to voice dissent afterwards.

'If you come to a decisional meeting and don't speak up, then shut up,' Yates said. 'Don't criticise the decision after the fact because you did not have the guts or the brains or the preparation to bring it up at the meeting in front of the CEO.'

Yates, who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and a foreign policy commentator on Fox News, felt the same about Powell's successor, Rice, although he also 'liked her a great deal'. Yates said that in the administration of George W. Bush, it was seen as an asset to have people with strong personalities, long resumes and deeply held views on how American power should be used to shape the world. That some were contending views was all the better.

'I was mindful for the entire time that I served that I was a mouse in a room of elephants. My job was to watch where the feet were coming down,' Yates said. 'Cheney communicated very little but when he did it was high-octane.'

He said Cheney, who was vice-president from 2001-09, was misunderstood by the media.

He described Cheney as a 'thoughtful and patient guy' who would listen intently for an age and act only after that. Yates said he did not agree with Cheney's strategy of not going out and explaining issues more, but that he had 'a grandfatherly side that is reassuring, that doesn't fit with the Darth Vader personality that he's acquired'.

Yates said he was amazed at the number of liberals from the 1970s that would show up in his office because they were his friends.

'His deepest love affair in politics was with Gerald Ford's administration where he was chief of staff. It was a different time back then to say the least,' Yates said.