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George W. Bush apparently asked Dick Cheney to be his running mate while munching on a fried chicken leg.

Or that is at least how Adam McKay, director of the new movie Vice, depicted the moment in which Dick Cheney agrees to join then-candidate Bush’s ticket.

“I want you to be my VP…” Bush says to Cheney.

“I am the CEO of a large company…” Cheney responds, while continuing to list off the most impressive titles on his resume.

The film depicts Cheney as manipulating Bush into giving away a large chunk of his presidency, in favor of allowing this son of Wyoming to attain the power he so desperately desired.

“…There is no question that Cheney is a brilliant bureaucrat, a brilliant operator…” McKay tells Terry Gross at the beginning of an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. Before mostly spending the remainder of his time on air painting Cheney in a rather negative light. “…The biggest thing he did was by going to war, and then in the end, turned out the intelligence was bogus…”

As if Vice President Dick Cheney was the sole reason why the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

This line of argument ignores the fact that the Iraq War Resolution passed the Senate back in October 2002, with the final vote tally clocking in at 77-23 (which included 29 members of the opposing political party). It passed the House, 296-133. Yet the members voting in favor of the measure are not having a movie made about them.

This is in no way meant to be a full-throated defense of our 46thVice President. He made plenty of ill-fated decisions, ones that had large consequences for our nation. Yet I wonder if the eagerness of this film to paint Cheney as a villain obscures reality.

Decisions in hindsight are easily questioned. New information can provide a shift in perspective. What seems so apparent now – that the Iraq War was ill-fated from the outset – was not necessarily the attitude espoused by many Americans at the time. After all, in March 2003, 71% of Americans “supported the decision to use military force in Iraq,” according to Pew Research. This is not to say that invading Iraq was the right decision, mind you; but, to ask whether or not it is fair to pin the failures of the war on a singular man.

Our leaders rightfully possess culpability for the decisions made on their watch. Yet I wonder if Dick Cheney knew to the extent he would be pilloried in the press if he took the job Bush offered him. I wonder whether his children knew the scrutiny they would endure, the ways in which conjecture surrounding their personal lives would appear before audiences all across the country (even more than a decade after their father left office). Is such an examination even helpful to our democratic experiment?

Human nature seemingly precludes us from seeing the best in our leaders. Typically, Americans are all too eager to indulge in our public servants’ greatest failures. We remember President Reagan for Iran Contra, Bush 41 for “Read My Lips.” We remember Vice President Dan Quayle for misspelling “potato” (minus the e) or Al Gore for seemingly taking credit for the invention of the internet. We reduce our leaders down to simple caricatures – defining them simply by one misstep. One mistake. One event.

I would venture to guess that there is a lot more to Dick Cheney than just his decision to champion an invasion of Iraq. Some of those aspects of the man are on display in Vice. His love for his wife Lynne. His love and affection for his daughters, even when Mary reveals her sexuality (which will inherently affect her father’s political future). His willingness to give up his presidential aspirations to protect his daughter (although, if you read certain accounts, the decision may have involved additional factors). The point being that there are things to admire about Cheney, no matter what political party with which you identify.

I won’t take the space to point out the factual inaccuracies in the film – plenty of others have done that already. Although it is important to note how easily the line between fact and fiction can blur. Moviegoers are being offered a mix of both, as so many of the conversations (i.e., between he and his wife) are likely truly unknowable. Assuming the truth inherent in this account should be taken with a grain of salt.

Obviously, the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. Adam McKay is free to portray Richard B. Cheney in any way he pleases. Yet the question remains. Shouldn’t we do more to reflect the entirety of a person, instead of indulging in a perceived caricature?

Samuel Moore-Sobel is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit

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