FRONTLINE: Cheney’s Law (PBS)
Political thrillers as complex and engrossing as Cheney’s Law ordinarily come to PBS from England by way of Masterpiece Theatre. This riveting hour is purely American—and purely non-fiction. It’s a meticulous examination of how Vice President Dick Cheney has acted upon his long-held, well-documented belief that the power of the U.S. Presidency, weakened after the scandals of the Nixon Administration, needed to be restored and enhanced for the good of the nation. According to FRONTLINE‘s report, Cheney already had an enthusiastic ally in President George W. Bush when terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Those horrific events energized and emboldened the White House and sympathetic lawyers at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to draft memoranda granting the President near-limitless leeway to deal with the terrorist threat abroad and at home. Cheney’s Law intensifies as it recalls how members of the Justice Department began to question the Constitutionality of these enhanced powers. The conflicts culminate in a gripping recap of a now-legendary confrontation in a Washington hospital room. There, the White House counsel and chief of staff pleaded—unsuccessfully—with a desperately ill Attorney General John Ashcroft to overrule his department’s finding that a national surveillance program was illegal. For even-handedly documenting the hard realities of an ongoing ideological clash over the extent of Presidential power, FRONTLINE: Cheney’s Law receives a Peabody Award.
Executive producer: David Fanning. Producer/Director/Writer: Michael Kirk. Producer/Reporter: Jim Gilmore. Field producer: Mike Wiser. Coordinating producer: Colette Neirouz. Editor: Steve Audette. Production assistant: Juliana Schatz.