by GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Noel Rosen (@GatsbyCaulfield)
We all know the stories, and traits put on Dick Cheney. Are they accurate?
When I first saw the trailer for “The World According To Dick Cheney”, I was caught off guard when Cheney went through this dialogue:
Director: What do you consider your main fault?
And Dick Cheney stuttered, and stammered, and simply said:
“I guess I don’t spend that much time thinking about my faults”.
One would deduce that Dick Cheney is not a very introspective guy. This documentary goes a long way to assert that notion, and many other notions in a pretty straight-line expose on a man who changed the Vice Presidency forever.
It spends a little time discussing his beginnings in Wyoming, his frequent runs in with the law at an early age, and even (GASP) getting kicked out of an Ivy league college. However, there is some redemption for young Dick as he’s able to land back on his feet, and work his way into the Washington inner-circle in the Nixon administration, and spend the next 40 years immerged in American politics.
One of the more fascinating parts of the documentary is the role Cheney had in the Gerald Ford administration, and how his antics and behavior helped shape how he viewed power, his blatant distrust for Congress, and ultimately, his view of the Presidency, and how it operates. It does a great job of building up the relationship between Donald Rumsfeld, and Cheney. Rumsfeld, who was Cheney’s mentor, would serve as the Secretary of Defense for the Bush administration from 2001-2006. Their relationship was of close loyalty, and it never wavered.
With some cutaways and stories, we come to the most crucial/interesting aspect of Cheney’s historical significance: September 11th, and beyond. Cheney, who for most of the film serves on camera in a simple interview format also serves as a narrator (along with Dennis Haysbert). Here’s where the political partisans will see the documentary slightly different, and it develops rather predictably, but albeit, interesting. For a good 30-40 minutes, there’s a discussion about Weapons of Mass Destruction, Iraq, and the need to stop terrorist attacks at any costs. Cheney pulls no punches when he discusses the need for the invasion, the occupancy, and the tenets of the Patriot Act. He defends water-boarding and wiretapping citizens to gain information. Through all of this, he contends he did nothing right, and he was doing it in the interest of America ignoring how unpopular some of this became as the years went on.
The documentary doesn’t solely feature Cheney though. It’s got writers, peers, analysts/strategists who all have different backgrounds but essentially say the same thing: Dick Cheney believed there was a threat, and nothing would have changed his opinion.
One of the shortcomings of the documentary is the real honest critiques you could make for a lot of the policies, and decisions were never rebutted to Cheney during the film. There were appropriate times to bring up policy questions, and engage in a discussion.
In a documentary though with so many un-answered questions left unsaid, it really does prove how powerful he was. He was a skillful at manipulation, and skewing things to garner support. This is seen when he knowingly falsifies some information he gives to Richard Armey in order for support to vote for the Iraqi invasion. He also masterminds and helps control policy with key members of his staff, especially that George W. Bush guy. Bush relied on Cheney pretty heavily, and like it or not, Cheney utilized this power unlike any other Vice President. By the end of the administration, Bush’s confidence and trust in Cheney wavered (thanks to a few notable incidents documented), and their relationship stalled out. Bush would discuss in his own memoirs about being “blindsided” by many of the Cheney influenced decisions.
He never gets to defend his positions from what his peers say about some of his actions, but he made it pretty evident towards the end of the film by saying: “It isn’t so much about what you achieved, but what you prevented”.
I’d recommend this documentary to anyone interested in a very polarizing figure that has played a key role in America’s foreign policy the last 40 years. I would temper your expectations if you’re looking for straight answers, or even an apology. Dick Cheney has moved on from his time as Vice President of America with no regrets. Can we say the same?
This documentary is airing, and re-airing on Showtime throughout the summer. Check your local listings.