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Showtime’s Dick Cheney Doc Reveals What Obama and Hillary Clinton Did in Resurrecting America’s Foreign Policy Brand

“If you’re a man of principle, compromise is a bit of a dirty word. The President made the decision that he wanted to avoid major controversy. It was his call, so that’s what we did.” – Dick Cheney on George W. Bush’s decision to reverse himself on warrantless wiretaps when he finds out what Cheney has orchestrated behind his back. [Showtime's "The World According to Dick Cheney"]


THE DISRESPECT Vice President Richard B. (Dick) Cheney has for former President George W. Bush is revealed in the quote above. It comes far into Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney,” released just as we commemorate ten years since the start of the Iraq war.

It was March 2004 when President Bush is told by James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, that he’s been basically lied to by his staff, starting with Mr. Cheney.

From a New York Times review by Alexandra Stanley, which accurately depicts the drama:

Mr. Cheney, who uses the pronoun “I” so assertively that when he says “we,” it sounds like the royal first-person pronoun, doesn’t play down his authority in the Bush White House. But others in the film make the case that Mr. Cheney manipulated Mr. Bush and at times even deceived him in ways that endangered his presidency.

One incident is almost chilling. Barton Gellman, a journalist and the author of a Cheney biography, recounts how in 2004 Mr. Cheney fought Justice Department lawyers who had determined that the top-secret, warrantless surveillance program that he had pushed for was illegal. Mr. Cheney was so insistent on keeping the wiretaps going that he kept Mr. Bush, then in his re-election campaign, out of the loop until the 11th hour, when two dozen Justice Department lawyers and the F.B.I. director threatened to resign.

Bush’s decision to reverse himself, “a complete 180″ from what he had signed on to just 24 hours earlier, is described by Barton Gellman as “unprecedented in American history.” It happened because Comey was allowed to talk to Bush and tell him what was going on behind his back through the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney.

One of the most stunning revelations of the Showtime documentary, though no one else has mentioned it yet as far as I’ve seen, is the smallness and irrelevancy of George W. Bush in his own presidency, which is revealed through Cheney’s own words and world view of where he places himself in history. It wasn’t until the very end of Bush’s second term that he struggles out of the grip of Cheney. The documentary brilliantly reveals Richard Cheney as the center of the Bush presidency’s power, while George W. Bush seemingly remains oblivious. It’s subtle, with the narrative cleverly woven throughout the documentary, though it could just as easily be surfacing organically through Cheney’s self-involved world view.

Coming after the Iraq war debacle, the historic chapter on warrantless wiretaps is seminal in cementing the story of Dick Cheney’s grip over the Administration, but also included the entire U.S. traditional media. Clips of “Meet the Press,” when Tim Russert was its steward, go further in proving the press’s wholly culpable role in the disastrous history that resulted during the Bush-Cheney years.

It is absolutely inconceivable that Barack Obama would have allowed this type of usurpation of his presidential power by Joe Biden.

Looking back to 2006 at what I wrote after the Frontline documentary “The Dark Side,” the full picture of Richard B. Cheney’s malevolence can now be seen fully.

Anyone living through the Vietnam era and becoming a conservative out of the horror of Richard M. Nixon’s behavior, which makes Lyndon Johnson’s manipulations and escalation pale in comparison, something that’s hard to do, automatically deserves skepticism when being considered for leadership. But that was the impact of that era on Dick Cheney. Nixon’s potential impeachment proving to Cheney, as well as Donald Rumsfeld, that the Executive Branch should be held higher than Legislative and Judiciary, something he worked his entire time in government to cement, which remains his legacy today.

Harry Truman’s national security naïveté, allowing his staff to use him as a pawn, which led to the dropping of the first nuclear bombs, is the only thing that rivals Dick Cheney’s epic immorality as an advisor, or George W. Bush’s weakness. Cheney’s actions not only make him a war criminal, but worse than Truman’s advisors, because in the modern era there was widely known proof that Saddam Hussein was never at any time a clear and present danger to the United States. The resulting human rights violations, constitutional malfeasance, the manipulations of intelligence that includes involvement in Valerie Plame Wilson’s NOC cover being blown, because her esteemed foreign service husband Joseph Wilson dared to tell the truth, all of it reveals criminal behavior that Cheney’s grifting and derelict start foreshadowed.

Commemorating the 10th year of the Iraq war, a horrific miscarriage against everything our country stands for, Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney” comes at a perfect time. The arrogant narcissism that led us into Iraq, seen through Richard B. Cheney, at the head of the snake responsible for the concoction of the war, reminds us all what can happen when a very small minded man who never had the brains, or the moral fiber, for leadership, but did have the ideological zealotry, is allowed the opportunity to play puppet master of a man as weak as George W. Bush. In a foundation of the Republican party, with its epic empire fetish, we’ve now all lived through yet another decade of what this type of incompetence and maniacal greed for power can bring.

When Syria’s expanding nuclear capabilities hit the news in 2007, reasserting the authority the Administration had in 2003 became Cheney’s obsession. It included the suicidal notion that the U.S. should unilaterally bomb Syria when a nuclear compound under construction was revealed. “Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues,” Cheney hisses, finally understanding that Condoleezza Rice had become his nemesis, especially since she is reportedly responsible for getting Comey in the room with Bush, which led to the warrantless wiretap reversal. Nobody supported Cheney when he suggest a unilateral strike. He was finally “isolated and quite irrelevant,” as Bob Woodward assesses it in the Showtime documentary.

Bush not pardoning the convicted felon Scooter Libby, for his role in outing Valerie Plame Wilson, was the final break in their relationship. Cheney said Bush had the power “to fix it,” but refused. Cheney saw that as leaving a political warrior on the field of battle. George W. Bush reportedly requested that not another phone call from his vice president ever be put through to the Oval Office again.

A man who began his adulthood as a common drunk, flunking out of Yale twice, saved only through the love of Lynn Cheney, as the story goes, should never have been allowed the power he had in the American government. Past is prologue comes to mind. That Dick Cheney would hook up with another alcoholic seems fitting, as these two recovering addicts take the country on a disastrous ride through the Middle East, leaving nothing but scorched earth, our American reputation in ruin, and a foreign policy that took yet again a Democratic administration to patch back together.


If anyone is wondering what President Obama did through appointing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state they need look no further than Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney” to be reminded of what George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney dumped in the Democratic administration’s lap. People have very short memories and in our country giving a woman the credit is the last choice of the scoundrels she saves.

“I think we have to go back to my beginning in January ’09 to remember how poorly perceived the United States was, how badly damaged our reputation was, how our leadership was in question, how the economic crisis had really shaken people’s confidence in our government, our economic system, our country.” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [CNN]

Disclosure: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson is featured on my book’s dust jacket, writing a blurb in support of the coverage I offered during the 2008 election.

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11 Responses to Showtime’s Dick Cheney Doc Reveals What Obama and Hillary Clinton Did in Resurrecting America’s Foreign Policy Brand

  1. Solo March 17, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Spot on Taylor! Spot on!

  2. Pilgrim March 17, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    All well said.

  3. Ga6thDem March 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    No doubt Dick Cheney is the most malevolent character to EVER occupy the position of VP. However, this seems to play into the belief that George W. Bush was a clueless dupe in the whole charade. Was he really that stupid? I remember discounting what Chris Matthews said years ago that the neocons found an idiot as a front for their agenda. All in all, George W. Bush is personally responsible for what happened too. I think W. was without a moral compass so he was an easy foil for these people but he needs to be held accountable for what he did too.

  4. fangio March 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Sometimes one picture tells it all. I firmly believe that for Cheney and Rumsfeld it was about empire. But for Bush it was about revenge. Saddam tried to kill daddy and he wanted his piece of flesh. He had no world view and a Texas sized belief in the American military, so the consequences of his actions were invisible to him. Of course many of us already knew that Cheney was the puppet master and that his bidding would be Bush’s command.

  5. fangio March 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    The picture I really wanted to showcase is the one of the little girl in the refugee camp clutching a doll to her chest. The look on her face shows the disaster that Bush and Cheney wrought.

  6. Nick121456 March 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    “[A]s these two recovering addicts take the country on a disastrous ride through the Middle East, leaving nothing but scorched earth, our American reputation in ruin….”

    In what sense are Bush and Cheney recovering from their alcoholism? Not all of us alcoholics, recovering or otherwise, are angry and violent. Quite a few of us are just depressed or anxiety prone, often too sensitive to the sad state of the world.

  7. secularhumanizinevoluter March 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    It would appear that for what ever reason the Obama administration is adamant in not caring about investigating, exposing and bringing this world class war criminal to justice. It is also clear he will never travel outside of the United States so that he could be rendition-ed by another power and drug before the World Court. All one is left with is the hope that he will die….just die already. If there is karmic justice this piece of human garbage will die in pain untouchable by drugs and taking a very long time.

  8. newdealdem1 March 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Great commentary, Taylor. Really first rate: incisive as well as insightful.

    I saw this doc over the weekend. Very well done and very informative as well. As I was watching it, I began to realize about half way through that Cheney *was* Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. Iago is one of Shakespeare’s most sinister villains, often considered as such because of the unique trust that Othello places in him, which he betrays while falsely maintaining his reputation of honesty and dedication.

    As Iago was Othello’s trusted adviser, Cheney was Bush’s. Cheney is every bit as manipulative and treacherous in getting his way to power causing chaos and with it tragic consequences for this country and it’s citizens and Iraq and it’s citizens. Consequences each country will grapple with for a very long time as long the Vietnam legacy still lingers.

    Please excuse this long post. I would like to share my reaction to this astonishing film and in particular two “scenes” that stood out for me.

    There were so many memorable and disturbing scenes in “The World According to Dick Cheney” but two scenes (both connected to the other) that particularly stood out for me.

    One took place during the first known rift between “boy wonder” Bush and incompetent, power mad Cheney when Bush is out of town campaigning for a second term. And, the second one was after Bush fires Rumsfeld – which Bush orders Cheney to do- the scene at the public “retirement ceremony” for Rumsfeld where Cheney gives a farewell speech in honor of him.

    Again, both of these scenes are related and both startle (even though many of us know what happened).

    The rift between Bush-Cheney happened when Cheney lied to Bush by deliberate omission about the renewal of the warrant-less wiretap program (spying on American citizens: shades of Nixon) over which two key and legal assistants (both Republicans, btw) at Ashcroft’s Justice and FBI Director Muller threatened to quit because of what they considered unconstitutional/illegal provisions in the program. They advise Ashcroft of these illegal provisions and further advise him not to sign off on the renewal. Ashcroft agrees and orders his assistants to send the document back to the White House to make those changes otherwise Ashcroft won’t sign off. (I won’t go into chilling scene, the felony that almost happened when Ashcroft was on his “death” bed in hospital.)

    Both agencies (Justice and the FBI) were in turmoil and Bush had no clue what was going on until he did. Bush meets with one of the Ashcroft assistants (on the advice of Condoleezza Rice) who advised Ashcroft about the unconstitutional provisions in the program The legal assistant from Justice reveals to Bush what had been going on for three months (at Justice and the FBI) which exposed Cheney’s betrayal of Bush and his presidency.

    Before Bush discovered what was going on, he was all for renewing the warrant-less wiretap program but changed his mind upon learning about Cheney’s treachery and Justice’s (and the FBI’s) meltdown. Bush ordered the unconstitutional/illegal provisions to be taken out of the program so that Justice was able to sign off. Bush was livid and furious with Cheney as he understood right then that what Cheney almost accomplished posed a mortal threat to his (Bush’s) presidency. Cheney walked the Bush Administration right to the end of the cliff and it changed their relationship forever.

    In the interview, Cheney nonchalantly says he was right and everyone else was wrong including Bush who he says (with a straight face) should have accepted everyone’s resignation at Justice and the FBI. It’s one of a number of chilling scenes in this doc. Cheney’s amorality and self-confidence in the face of overwhelming facts is just stunning to watch. Now, we all know Cheney’s rep as a “darth vader” but this and the next scene still jolt even if we know what went on here because it’s Cheney’s seemingly nonchalant and indifferent reaction to these events that shakes up the viewer (those without amoral brains).

    Then Abu Ghraib happens and Rumsfeld comes under strong fire with calls for him to go, even impeached as Defense Secretary. Cheney defends Rumsfeld and convinces him not to resign.

    Bush is re-elected and he eventually fires Rumsfeld or “forces him to resign” to be replaced by Gates.

    At the time of Rumsfeld’s “resignation” he had been Cheney’s BFF and man crush for 40 years (it was Rumsfeld who hired Cheney to work for him in the Nixon Administration).

    The second (and related) scene takes place at Rumsfeld’s very public “retirement celebration” (after Bush fired him). Rumsfeld is sitting at a place of honor on the platform near Bush whilst Cheney is up by the podium speaking laudably about his former boss and now closest friend Rumsfeld. Bush is looking especially grim. Everyone was except for Cheney. I’d never seen this before so I was shocked by Cheney’s unfettered contempt for Bush by his words as he praised Rummy.

    This is (verbatim) what Cheney said of his former boss, Rumsfeld, which only served to humiliate (which imo, was it’s main purpose) his current one, Bush, whilst all three listened on and in view of what looked like the entire Pentagon:

    “My first association with Don Rumsfeld was one of life’s great turning points, both professionally and personally. On the professional side, I would not be where I am today but for the confidence that Don first placed in me those many years ago. And, on the personal side, it’s enough to say that I have no better friend and ask for none.”

    All of this is true, but here comes the stunning part as he spoke these next words not only in public with the “entire” Pentagon (and world) watching and listening but in front of Bush whose reaction to what he (Cheney) then said was both incredulous and furious (and with good reason):

    “I’ve never worked harder for a boss and I never learned more from one either.”

    Whilst this is also probably true, to say this in front of his current boss, the POTUS, not only reveals Cheney’s revengeful tic, it also serves to humiliate Bush in public and right in front of him without blinking.

    Cheney concludes his short speech as follows:

    “I think the record speaks for itself. Don Rumsfeld is the finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had.”

    Scattered applause. End scene.

    After these “episodes”, Cheney was frozen out of Bush’s circle of power telling his staff to not accept Cheney’s calls. He was isolated and alone (richly deserved) as this doc makes abundantly clear.

    I’ve no sympathy for either Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld and believe that all three should have been impeached and currently serving time, however, this film is about Cheney so my comments focus on him and his amoral treachery. If there is a worst among the worst (at least among these three), there is no doubt in my mind that that dubious moniker belongs to Cheney.

    If some readers don’t have cable, I really recommend renting this doc when it’s released. Or, downloading from itunes or amazon, etc. when available. It’s truly worth your time

    Taylor writes:

    “If anyone is wondering what President Obama did through appointing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state they need look no further than Showtime’s “The World According to Dick Cheney” to be reminded of what George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney dumped in the Democratic administration’s lap. People have very short memories and in our country giving a woman the credit is the last choice of the scoundrels she saves. ”

    Well said and true.

    Related: I came across a book recently published and written by a reporter born in Beirut (of Lebanese and Dutch ancestry) and who worked for the BBC as a foreign correspondent covering the US State Department. I’m sure you are familiar with this woman, Taylor. For any of your readers who are unfamiliar, her name is Kim Ghattas and she wrote “The Secretary”. I recently ordered it from Amazon.

    Kim Ghattas was one of the correspondents who traveled around the globe with Clinton whilst she was SOS. Like Clinton, Ghattas is very impressive indeed (saw her interviewed a couple of times over the weekend). And, a very refreshing antidote to American mainstream journalists most of whom continue to underwhelm.

  9. mjsmith March 19, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    THe one thing I will say is that Scooter Libby was guilty and President Bush did the right thing by not pardoning him. The person who headed Scooter Libby’s legal defense was Mel Sembler. Sembeler is a bad guy.

  10. tm123 March 19, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    A favorite ruse of active alcoholics. Lay claim to recovery and just keep on drinking. Bush-Cheney gave zero evidence of recovery. They never stopped drinking. Ever. Cheney’s dismal health probably compelled periods when alcohol was unavailable or withheld, but alcoholics always resume drinking. They leave hospital care early to do it. Bush just took the stupid “Beer is not alcohol” position. Drunk, stupid criminals.

  11. Martimus April 13, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    I think one of the most telling parts of this film, in regard to the relationship of power between Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, is at Rumsfelds “retirement” ceremony.

    Cheney is addressing the audience and says in reference to Rumsfeld “I’ve never worked harder for a boss, and I’ve never learned more form one either..”

    Kinda funny considering his current boss for the last six years is sitting there next to him looking uncomfortable.

    Technically Rumsfeld hasn’t been his boss since back in the day, right?

    The way I understand that is that either Cheney has not been working as hard for Bush as he did for DR back then, despite presently being the vice president, orchestrating two massive wars, massive national and international power grabs, OR (and this is my point) he still thinks of Rumsfeld as his boss. What a thinly veiled farce…

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong