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Cockburn Conservatism US Politics

WATCH: Christian Bale’s uncanny Dick Cheney

A retrospective about the last Republican presidency comes just at the right time

October 3, 2018

2:46 PM

3 October 2018

2:46 PM

Adam McKay’s long-awaited Vice, about the third White House tenure of Richard Bruce Cheney comes out on Christmas. And indeed, for politicos and students of the 2000s, it can’t come soon enough. The first trailer of the film was released Wednesday.

It’s 2000, at the height of American empire, and Cheney and then-Texas Governor George Walker Bush sit drinking iced tea in what appears to Bush’s soon-to-be-famed Crawford ranch outside of Waco, Texas.

‘I’m a CEO of a large company,’ Cheney intones.‘And I have been secretary of Defense, and I have been White House chief of staff. The vice presidency is a mostly symbolic job. However, if we came to a different understanding…’

The rest is history. Cheney oversees a ruthless victory in the Election 2000 squabble and the assiduous staffing of the new Bush White House in the winter of 2000-2001.

September 11, 2001 would then convulse American politics in a manner not seen since the Second World War.

By then, the arrangement long speculated between the-then vice president and the president became of the greatest importance. America was at war. McKay’s Vice seems to take a clear interpretation of events.

The music choice in the trailer is pitch-perfect.‘Who’s the man?’ chimes the song, ‘The Man’, by the appropriately-named The Killers.

Like The Killers, Dick Cheney peaked in 2003.  

‘I got a plan, another direction,’ the tune continues.‘First-in-command.’

‘I can handle the more mundane jobs,’ Cheney, played spookily-well by Christian Bale, tells Sam Rockwell’s George W. Bush. ‘Overseeing… military, energy and foreign policy.’

Just how powerful Cheney was during Bush’s presidency is a matter of historical dispute. Sources have told Cockburn in the past that the two are not close nowadays, barely speaking, if at all.

But in the early goings, Cheney played an outsized role. This is that story.

Nowadays, it’s almost as if the Bush administration didn’t happen. Bush is even a hero among the some in the #Resistance movement. It’s Trump ad infinitum.

Perhaps tellingly, Cheney and his daughter, now-Rep. Liz Cheney, have backed the Trump ascension in a way the Bushes have not. During the 2000s, Cheney and his staff fashioned themselves the true conservatives, steering the novice, even ignoramus Bush in the right direction, until he lost heart in the second term.

We now live in the Trumpengeist. But this time came from that time.

It’s unlikely a figure such as he could have risen if not for the shocking events at the beginning of this century. As former Bush speechwriter wrote in 2013, reviewing New York Times’ reporter Peter Baker’s Bush-Cheney book, Days of Fire: ‘The Bush administration opened with a second Pearl Harbour, ended with a second Great Crash and contained a second Vietnam in the middle.’

The aughts are a bottomless well worth revisiting. Cockburn looks forward to Vice.

 


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