Regrets? Dick Cheney expresses very few in new documentary narrated by '24's' Dennis Haysbert

Eager to learn more about Dick Cheney? Spend two hours with him via Showtime's "The World According to Dick Cheney."
Eager to learn more about Dick Cheney? Spend two hours with him via Showtime's "The World According to Dick Cheney."
Posted: March 15, 2013

* THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY. 9 p.m. Friday, Showtime.

YOU'D HAVE to have strong feelings about Dick Cheney to spend two hours on Friday night watching a documentary about him.

Fortunately for Showtime, where "The World According to Dick Cheney" makes its TV premiere this week, plenty of people have strong feelings about Cheney, whose vice presidency made him a lightning rod for controversy.

And a willing one, at that.

In the excerpts from several days of interviews with documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," "The September Issue"), he appears as firmly convinced as ever in the rightness of just about every decision he ever made or helped others make.

Regrets? He has a few, but they mostly involve those other people, up to and including his former boss, President George W. Bush. It was Bush who refused to pardon Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for obstructing justice, perjury and one count of making false statements in connection with the investigation into the leaking of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, a refusal Cheney likens to leaving a wounded comrade on the battlefield.

Cheney's knowledge of battlefields may be somewhat abstract. After flunking out of Yale twice, he'd turned his life around enough to be attending graduate school at the protest-ridden University of Wisconsin in the years when he might have been experiencing those of Vietnam.

"I basically supported what the administration was doing at that point," he explains. "We [he and his wife, Lynn] were basically trying to get on with our lives, start a family and so forth" and the protests "certainly moved us in a conservative direction."

So if you're inclined to be annoyed with Cheney already, yeah, there's plenty in Cutler's documentary - narrated by "24's" Dennis Haysbert - to support those feelings.

But this is more than a hate-watching opportunity. I've yet to read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, but I'd argue that anyone, male or female, who's looking for hints on grabbing and holding on to power could do worse than look at the career of a man who's all about leaning in and who seems never to have questioned his own fitness for any office.

In charge of vetting Bush's candidates for the veep job he'd eventually accept himself, he set the bar high for everyone else: "We wanted 10 years of tax returns. We wanted their health records. We wanted to know if they'd ever been involved in any kind of scrape that might be an embarrassment to the president," he said. "It was a pretty exhaustive proposition. I'm not sure I would have gone through all that if I'd been asked."

Given Cheney's history, which included a couple of drunken-driving arrests in his early 20s and serious heart issues that began in his 30s, he's lucky Bush cared more about his resume, which gets most of Cutler's attention, too.

"The World According to Dick Cheney" has some chilling moments, from his dispassionate description of waterboarding ("It creates a sensation of drowning") to his 9/11 narrative, in which he takes responsibility for having authorized the shooting down of Flight 93 if it approached Washington.

What it doesn't have is a lot of navel-gazing.

Asked to name his greatest fault, Cheney hesitates before deciding it's that he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about his faults.

Try that in your next job interview. Let me know how it goes.


Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: EllenGray.tv

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