How do you revamp the image of someone accused of being heartless? Show that he has a heart – literally. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney’s new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, was published this week. Cheney, who served for eight years under President George W. Bush, kicked off the media on CBS’ 60 Minutes and continued on to the major morning shows.
Cheney is something of a cardiac miracle: he’s suffered five heart attacks and has had surgery to place stents, a pacemaker, and a pump. Finally, in 2012, he had a heart transplant.He waited 20 months for a new heart, nearly double the waiting time of most transplant recipients. No special treatment there.
The book has also provides interesting tidbits about Cheney’s tenure in the Bush White House. For one, his health history prompted him to sign a resignation letter in advance should he ever be alive but incapacitated. His cardiologist also had Cheney’s pacemaker altered so it couldn’t be hacked by a would-be assassin.
But the book serves another purpose. In the twilight of their lives, politicians have been known to contemplate their legacies. Heart shows that the now 72-year-old Cheney, whose nicknames include Darth Cheney and the Dark Lord, is, indeed, human – flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. At least, that’s what the book says.
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Nobody wants to go into that good night known as Dr. Evil.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: (Almost) no one is beyond redemption. When public figures open up about personal struggles or admit to fears, it can often blur the edges of a sharp character or reputation. Perhaps it’s through a memoir (safe but labor intensive) or on Oprah’s couch (riskier, but with a wider audience). In that sense, Cheney is lucky: His bad ticker has given him rich material to mine for such an effort. But can one book soften so many years of harsh criticism? That’s a tall order, and not one for the faint of heart.