Showtime wades into the documentary field in a big way with "The World Ac cording to Dick Cheney" (9 p.m.) directed by R.J. Cutler.
The film offers the first glimpses of the former vice president since major heart surgery and features extensive interviews with Cheney, longtime colleague Donald Rumsfeld and legal adviser David Addington, author of some of the more controversial policies of the early years of the war on terror.
Cheney remains defiant and remarkably sanguine about his years in public service. His contempt for the media is palpable. "If you want to be loved," he
asserts, "go be a movie star."
Democrats are largely unmentioned.
The disappointment at the center of this film is how much
relations between the two men remain frosty.
The documentary begins with his basic biography and a whiff of personal revelation. Cheney flunked out of Yale twice and spent time behind bars for drunken driving before the love of a good woman (his future wife, Lynne) apparently straightened him out. He returned to college and graduate school and rose as a political adviser at a remarkably fast clip.
Unfortunately, these admissions are as close to reflection as "World" gets. It compensates for Cheney's reticence with a glance at his remarkable resume. After hitching his professional wagon to Washington insider Rumsfeld, Cheney became White House chief of staff at the tender age of 34 -- a post he achieved after he and Rumsfeld ousted or neutered many of the heavy hitters of the Ford administration, including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller.
It says something about Cheney's philosophy that he saw Watergate not as a stain on democracy, but as an assault on presidential powers. He would continue to fight to defend them and expand them for the next four decades.
If "World" suffers from Cheney's opacity, it also focuses almost entirely on foreign policy and national security matters.
We hear nothing about Cheney's rather secretive orchestration of energy policy during the Bush years or his embrace of debt-ballooning tax cuts. It would have been interesting to hear from contemporary con-
servatives, who might chafe
at Cheney's infamous line, "Reagan taught us that deficits don't matter." It would also be interesting to hear from those who have a problem with Cheney's philosophy of limitless executive authority, particularly now that such authority rests in the hands of Barack Obama.
While the film tries to reinforce an image of Cheney as resolute, defiant and decisive, it reminds us that in essence, he has been a lifelong Washington insider, the ultimate court mandarin who finally outlived his mandate.
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Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.