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June 20th, 2019

Nominated for Best Picture

Vice:***1/2

I have an easy question for you: Who is the worst living Republican president?

Your gut instinct is telling some of you to say Trump. I am a pacifist, though, so the decision is easy for me.

President Trump recently decided to pull all US troops out of Syria, infuriating the Republican establishment. You remember the troops in Syria, right? They were sent there by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barak Obama without Congressional approval to try to clean up the mess created by the Bush Administration.

If you think Arab lives matter – at all – the choice between Donald Trump and George W. Bush is clear. Just in case you were able to forget what a calamity the Bush Administration was for the people of the Middle East, “Vice” is a friendly reminder.

While President Trump doesn’t mind saying ‘no’ to the warmongers in his administration, George W. Bush always said ‘yes’ to Dick Cheney.

Love him or loathe him, Dick Cheney was an extraordinary figure in American history. As Vice President – an office with no official power – he became a fearful warlord who reshaped American imperialism.

Writer/director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Talladega Nights”) presents Dick Cheney as a reasonably likable man. He has a wonderful relationship with his ambitious wife and he adores his two daughters. He unconditionally supported his openly lesbian daughter and refused to argue against gay marriage.

The first half of “Vice” is light and funny. We can’t help but root for young Cheney (Christian Bale) as he shrewdly works his way up through the ranks of the Nixon and Ford Administrations. Steve Carrell is delightful as Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney’s mentor and political soulmate.

When George W. Bush is elected in 2001, Dick Cheney goes from likable guy to arch-megavillain.

Adam McKay claims that Cheney invited dozens of his buddies from the petroleum industry to the White House to divvy up Iraq’s oil fields just in case they became available to steal. This was before 9/11.

After 9/11, Vice President Cheney worked to concede America’s moral high ground as quickly as possible. According to McKay, Cheney was the one who came up with the sick idea of moving POWs to secret prisons in allied countries that allow torture.

When Bush (Sam Rockwell) expresses concern about the plan, Cheney answers: “Mr. President, the United States does not torture. Therefore, what we’re doing is not torture.” We are not convinced.

All told, approximately 750,000 people were killed as a result of Mr. Cheney’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq. And if it were left up to him and his fellow foreign policy experts, US troops would remain in the Middle East indefinitely.

If you want to argue that Donald Trump is a bad president, that’s reasonable. I could add a few pieces of evidence to bolster your argument. His handling of the Wall has been embarrassingly incompetent. But if you want to say that he’s as bad as Bush/Cheney, then no. That’s not okay with me.

Bush is only better if you think that the sovereignty of Middle Eastern countries doesn’t matter. Bush is only better if you think that paying for CIA agents to torture men in Egypt doesn’t matter. Bush is only better if you think Arab Lives Don’t Matter.

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