Getting Bush Right

Making the Truth More Dramatic
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Oct. 28 2008 11:50 AM

Getting Bush Right

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In response to Jacob's last post, and the responsibility we bear to the truth, I believe we can defend the plausibility of any single scene (except, of course, the surreal dream scene with his father at the end). We are just not going to agree on the favored method for presenting historical drama.  Jacob would clearly prefer a dramatization with mostly imagined dialogue, as in The Queen, while I believe putting people's own words in their own mouths, though perhaps from another context of time and place, adds to the authenticity of the piece—as long as it doesn't cross the line of plausibility (i.e., the president may well have said something similar in this context).

Regarding Willie Horton, yes, I agree the Bush/Quayle campaign wasn't literally behind the ad. But let's not forget, there were ties between the National Security Political Action Committee (which produced the ads) and the campaign: Three former employees of Roger Ailes (a media consultant for the Bush campaign) worked on the ads. In fact, the FEC investigated a connection between Ailes and NSPAC, which resulted in a deadlocked 3-3 on finding illegal coordination. So, while there was no illegal coordination, as you well know, campaigns routinely tread carefully up to that line. 

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Moreover, I think it's naive to believe that presidential campaigns are so pristine as not to even know about these reprehensible ads before they air. And that's exactly what's portrayed in the film. The commercial was one of the turning points of that campaign, and it was this campaign that, according to many observers, showed W to be a shrewd operative. It seems quite plausible, therefore, that W, in dramatic context, may well have shown his father the ad and explained that it was funded by NSPAC.

As to Cheney and his concept of the domination of world resources, you accuse me of "paranoid fantasy" and compare me, surprisingly, to McCain and Palin. Well, I've been there before. (Frankly, I've been compared to worse historical figures.)  But I don't think many people would think that I'm far off the mark in the plausibility of the Cheney character arguing for control of Iraqi, Iranian, and Eurasian resources.

I'm bewildered, first, by your categorical disregard for his 1999 speech before the Petroleum Institute. The key quote remains: "The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies." Do you really think his views changed that much in three years? I'm sure you remember that in 2001 the vice president's energy task force spent a great deal of time courting every significant oil company to weigh in on the national energy policy—even though this was denied by everyone at the time. And what was the conclusion of Cheney's task force? That "by any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world oil security."

In September 2002, the Bush administration issued a new national security strategy that codified the themes of Cheney's 1992 defense guidance: maintaining overwhelming military power to "dissuade potential adversaries" from attempting to even equal U.S. power, and enhancing "energy security" by expanding "the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region."

In October 2002, Oil and Gas International reported that U.S. planning was already under way to reorganize Iraq's oil and business relationships. In January 2003, the Wall Street Journal reported that representatives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Halliburton, among others, were meeting with Vice President Cheney's staff to plan the postwar revival of Iraq's oil industry. One-time Bush speech writer David Frum wrote in The Right Man, his 2003 biography of his boss, that the "war on terror" was designed to "bring new freedom and new stability to the most vicious and violent quadrant of the Earth—and new prosperity to us all, by securing the world's largest pool of oil."

In August 2005, Bush acknowledged this connection himself—answering "growing anti-war protests," according to AP (Aug. 31), "with a fresh reason for U.S. troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists."

Regarding Iran, W. points to its centrality geographically. According to Gen. Wesley Clark, memos calling for the overthrow of seven countries in five years, including Iran and Iraq, were circulating in the Pentagon within two weeks of 9/11. And in State of Denial, Bob documents a secret, influential November 2001 meeting dubbed "Bletchley II," which concluded the United States couldn't defeat Islamic radicalism without first overthrowing Saddam, which, according to one participant, would lead to "Iranian overthrow." Current threats against Iran flow from this overall strategic vision.

I think in closing that we would agree that the fascinating portrait of Cheney as a Hobbesian, completely realistic, America-first survivalist, and (in contradiction to the Bush theology) a Darwinian of the first order, wherein the strong eat the weak, is quite plausible. That Dick Cheney, in his methodical, quiet, 1 percent way, must surely be thinking of the future of America in the next 50 years. In his entire government experience, he's been nothing less than loyal to his version of its perceived interests. Unfortunately, as was the case with many "armchair patriots" before him, defending those interests has led us into a "black hole." We made Cheney's plan for world domination as alluring and economically brief as possible for a dramatic audience. However, reading books such as Larry Everest's Oil, Power, and Empire, you will find a realistic, certainly plausible assessment of world energy policy, as perceived by the oil companies. There is a wonderful moment, I think, in the "Situation Room" scene, where Colin Powell looks over at Cheney after his monologue and says, somewhat with awe, "Spoken like a true oilman."

Signing off. Enjoyed very much,
Oliver

Oliver Stone is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the director, most recently, of W.

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