In Showtime’s documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” the man generally acknowledged to have been the most powerful vice president in U.S. history is asked to name his main fault.
“Um, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my faults, I guess would be the answer.”
Fair enough, but the filmmakers shouldn’t get off so easy.
Directed by R.J. Cutler and Greg Finton, the film is more even-handed than revelatory.
In documentaries as in politics, nice doesn’t always triumph.
“If you want to be loved,” Cheney advises politicians, “go be a movie star.”
Granted, Cutler (“The War Room,” “The September Issue”) and Finton don’t ignore Cheney’s unlovable qualities, and the biographical recap in the first portion of the film is no whitewash. (Cheney, who flamed out at Yale before notching two DUIs, was hardly a young man of promise.)
But the opportunities presented by having Cheney in the hot seat go unexploited. The pricklier subjects are left to talking- head journalists (Bob Woodward, David Corn, Ron Suskind, among others) to expound upon.
Nothing, for example, is mentioned of his energy policies. His rote answers to questions of historical import go largely unchallenged. Asked about water-boarding, which Cheney denies is torture, the former veep answers with a question of his own, effectively framing the issue in his favor:
“Tell me what terrorist attacks you would have let go forward,” he rebuts, “because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”
Kathryn Bigelow has endured greater challenges on the subject than Cheney does here.
“The World According to Dick Cheney” airs Friday, March 15 on Showtime at 9 p.m. EDT.
Greg Evans is a critic for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.