Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The World According to Dick Cheney

by Bill Holmes

I just watched the Showtime documentary The World According to Dick Cheney. It's an interesting program that doesn't break any new ground but does put a lot of events and time into a two hour capsule. I'm not going to document all of Dick Cheney's life but rather touch on those things in the documentary that I found important.

First off, let me say that I find Dick Cheney one of the most dangerous kind of people and politicians that there is. He's a very intelligent, politically savvy and well connected person. Probably the smartest guy in the room most of the time. On the surface many of his philosophies and idea sound right and reasonable. It's OK to be intelligent and savvy and connected. It's also OK to champion your philosophies, ideas and agenda. So you may ask what makes Cheney dangerous? It's his core philosophy and the methods he uses to advance those views. I'll get into that in the next few paragraphs and then sum up my take on Dick and his influence.

It's unusual for a college dropout, unfocused party animal with two DWI arrests to make it to the White House. You have to give Cheney, or his wife Lynne, credit for turning his life around. He earned  bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Wyoming and started a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin before Washington DC lured him into politics. It's also amazing that Cheney had his first heart attack at age 37. He's now 72 and on his second heart.

Cheney has an impressive resume. He was a White House staff member at the age of 30 in the Nixon administration. Chief of Staff for President Ford at 34 and later Ford's campaign manager in 1976. He was a ten term Congressman from Wyoming, rising to House Minority Whip. He served as Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He ran for president in 1994 but never got much traction or support, maybe it was his charming personality and charisma. During Clinton's administration Cheney became CEO of Halliburton, a tenure that is not without controversy. Of course he finished his career as vice president during both of George W. Bush's terms.

Cheney has always been a staunch conservative and hawk. Sometimes those two ideals were in conflict. As Secretary of Defense he reduced the military budget. As vice president he pushed for the Iraq invasion. Cutting spending is conservative, going to war is hawkish.

On to the review of the Showtime documentary. Cheney was interviewed for the show, but that was a small part of the program. Mostly it was pictures, film, narrative and talking head commentary. I would say the general tone was anti-Cheney although not blatant, there were supporters interviewed. The Cheney interview segments often did not include the interviewers questions, just Cheney's responses so it was sometimes difficult to discern what he was commenting about. I was hoping for a much more one on one question and answer session with a tough interviewer. Where is Mike Wallace when you need him?

Some of Cheney's responses were disturbing. He was asked about his main fault and responded - "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my faults." He has no compunction about torturing terrorist captives, not even a ethics or legal close call to him. If there is a 1% chance of WMDs that must be treated as a certainty of WMDs. Even though he was warned that Iraq WMDs may not exist he still kept pushing that as a reason to invade. Finally when no WMDs were found he came up with other reasons we should have invaded Iraq. He was a proponent of sending terrorist, Afghanistan and Iraqi prisoners to Guantanamo so they wouldn't get any extra rights by being in the US. He argued that those prisoners did not qualify for POW rights under the Geneva Convention. He wanted to spy on Americans and circumvent subpoena laws. He lied or kept Justice Department objections hidden about the subpoena stuff from W. He would have let many of the top Justice people resign rather than follow their legal advice on this issue. In his view compromise is a dirty word.

Eventually Cheney wore out his welcome as the opponent of terrorists at all costs and war monger. He became the lone man out and lost power in the White House and eventually lost Bush's trust. It appears that although they once had a close relationship, George W. and Dick are no longer friends. Despite whatever you think of W., I feel he is a very decent person who finally saw the true Cheney and didn't like what he saw.

So, why do I think Cheney was dangerous? It's because he is willing to eliminate, suspend or bend the rules to advance his views. He pretends to be a true red, white and blue patriot but has no problem stomping on the rights of those who don't agree with him. He sees a threat to our security behind every tree and around every corner. It's OK to torture the "enemy" to get information. It's OK to deny them almost any and all rights. We need to be vigilant to protect our country but we can not abandon our basic principles and rights to do it. Do we want to protect a country and way of life that is the same or worse than those trying to destroy us?      

Cheney was also dangerous because he had political power and was in positions to implement his views. His paranoid, uncompromising attitude is popular with a segment of our population. I'm always amazed at the knee-jerk reactions to trouble or tragedies. Many people are more than willing to give up our rights in the hope of preventing something bad, even if that something hardly ever occurs.

Of course those who advocate these infringements on our rights always have caveats. It's OK to eliminate subpoenas when spying on suspected terrorists but not OK to require background checks to purchase an AK-47 at a gun show. You can step on the rights of those I don't like or agree with but don't dare step on my rights. I think Cheney is one of those who loves his rights but really doesn't care about yours. He waves the US flag but doesn't think all that it stands for is important.

A few closing thoughts. Cheney is a full blown hawk about using US force but he said this - In 1989, The Washington Post writer George C. Wilson interviewed Cheney as the next Secretary of Defense; when asked about his deferments, Cheney reportedly said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service".

In closing the documentary he stated - "If I had to do it over again, I'd do it in a minute."  I guess that's easy to say for someone who has no faults. 

If you have the Showtime channels this show is on a million times this month (March 2013). Watch it and decide for yourself. 



  1. Cheney to me exemplifies all that is wrong with Executive Power. One of the reasons we need Congress to grow a spine and stop handing over the responsibility of going to war to Presidents. Cheney is a war criminal in my mind. I think the same of George W. Bush, who when asked over and over again if going intno Iraq was a mistake after the facts were clear that the intelligence was groundless and built upon lies, he responds "no I don't think it was a mistake". That's not a good man Bill, that's a guy that doesn't want tell the truth. We invaded and summarily killed over 100k Iraqis when we didn't have to. Somewhere, somehow there should be accountability for that. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowits, Feith and the rest of the NeoCon cabal should be in prison.

  2. Dennis - you sound as adamant in your views as Cheney is in his. We have had a plethora of bad guys in government in our history, Republicans, Democrats, Whigs and Tories. If we are going to brand members of the administration war criminals for getting us into or continuing stupid wars then we probably need to go back to Truman and impeach every administration since the Korean Police Action. We have executive power because there is a vacuum at the Capitol building. Congress has been dysfunctional since at least the 80's. I'm going to stick with my opinion that W. is and was a good man. Not a great president, often overwhelmed by the situations and smarter advisers who he trusted. Your buddy Obama seems to be all for increased snooping ability by the FBI and intelligence community. He also continued the Iraq war and is keeping us in Afghanistan - war criminal?