A few weeks ago, I finished the Chris Whipple book called “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” a book that masterfully and I believe fairly documented the reigns of chiefs of staff from the Nixon era forward.
Here’s a video of my book review, below:
I’ve been fascinated by the presidency since I was 3 and memorized them all. I read biographies of every president although I have never come close to devouring near enough Lincoln material. For the love of goodness, I read a biography of Millard Fillmore once.
And I’m a devotee of “The West Wing,” and to know Leo McGarry’s role as Jed Bartlet’s chief is to understand what the chief of staff is supposed to do.
- Tell the president the unadulterated truth
- Control access to the president
- Wrangle Congress
So, when Kristi and I went to see Adam McKay’s “Vice” a couple of weeks ago, it was with an eye for how they treated its subject, Dick Cheney, during his era as the chief of staff for former President Gerald Ford.
A lot of the details it nailed, but the first thing the movie failed to acknowledge is how well liked Cheney was on Capitol Hill during that first run. The Whipple book painted the picture of an incredibly amiable man, willing to work with people from all viewpoints, a bridge-builder and not a Darth Vader.
Sure, I get that people can change over time.
With “Vice,” we have to acknowledge how terrific Christian Bale was, regardless of who inspired him. Sam Rockwell was terrific as W, and I enjoyed seeing Allison Pill of “The Newsroom” fame.
I think people of all political stripes should acknowledge the role Cheney played in creating the situation whereby America went to war with Iraq in 2003. Even the Whipple book acknowledged that Cheney’s reign as vice president was more powerful than any chief of staff George W. Bush could have had, and that’s a reflection of Cheney’s experience as chief and his interest in manipulating the powers of the executive branch.
A manipulation that every president since has leveraged and will continue to leverage. Forget parties and division, this is the concept that should scare any American. We want our government to have less power, not more.
So, for those who hated W, this movie will cement that further.
For those who hate the liberal media elite, this film won’t do a thing to dissuade you that the fix is in.
For me, I had no problem with how McKay portrayed Cheney as the vice president. My primary issue is how they portrayed him as Ford’s chief. In reality, it’s really as if the Dick Cheney of 1975 and the Cheney of 2003 were completely different people.
Otherwise, a pretty mesmerizing movie to watch. I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.