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In the epilogue to Chain of Command, Seymour Hersh describes the relief of GOP operatives when, at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, a phone call from Dick Cheney’s office established the political marching orders: “No resignations. We’re going to hunker down and tough it out.” For those who’ve followed the public chronicling of the Bush cabinet’s internal politicking and power struggles, it’s no surprise that Cheney is always found at the rudder during moments of crisis. More noteworthy, however, is the abundant evidence that Cheney is in charge even in nonturbulent times, because many of this administration’s policies and priorities—from pre-emptive war to energy policy to tax cuts to awarding of defense contracts—are advanced by his uncompromising, behind-the-scenes work, leading many to wonder whose presidency it is, anyway. In Dick: The Man Who Is President, John Nichols, Washington correspondent for the Nation, has shaped the fractured history of Cheney’s lumbering, undistinguished, but committedly self-effacing climb to power into a narrative that tracks him from Nixon-era cronyism through a congressional tenure of rare right-wing conviction to his present role as champion of America’s global military dominance. In a political season defined by contempt and rage at Bush’s fumbling and inept performances, it’s instructive to review the origins and true seat of this administration’s “steady leadership.” Nichols reads at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Gene Alexeyev)