This week, The Hollywood Reporter featured a lengthy paean to the new anti-Bush film Vice. This particular film is dedicated to the apparent evil of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Left’s all-purpose nefarious bugaboo during the Bush years. The film isn’t unique: It follows W, starring Josh Brolin, a box-office failure; Truth, another box-office failure starring Robert Redford about Dan Rather’s attempt to take down George W. Bush with a fake letter about his military service; and You’re Welcome, America, starring Will Ferrell, which aired on HBO. None of these films raked in the cash. But that’s not stopping Adam McKay, producer of HBO’s Succession, from taking on a president who left office a decade ago.
What’s driving McKay? The need to live out his anger against Bush. McKay recalls attending the victory party for John Kerry — who, needless to say, did not win. “Everyone you could imagine was there,” McKay describes, including Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, and Ferrell. “Once again, we’re like, ‘Oh, they’re going to lose.’ There’s no way you’d reelect these guys after the disaster we just had. I remember Frank Rich was on the phone, and he’s like, ‘It’s over.’ And within two minutes, the entire party had cleared out.”
McKay turned away from political projects until The Big Short. But now he’s back, and he’s betting a $60 million budget that Americans are desperate to see Christian Bale put on 45 pounds and play Cheney as a Machiavellian devil hell-bent on sending American troops into battle for no good reason. The cast is massive and includes Sam Rockwell as W., Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell. According to McKay, Cheney was far more powerful than W.
This, of course, is untrue. But the punch line is this one: “I would choose Trump over Bush and Cheney.” Why? Because, according to McKay, “Donald Trump has no belief system. So I would take the hyenas, the random wild animals running through the White House over Cheney any day of the week.”
This is how you got Trump.
That’s an overused phrase to the point of parody, of course. But why not parody the parodists? Here’s the reality; the same Left that despises President Trump despised George W. Bush long before him. For the most part, the talk about Trump disgracing the office, the talk about Trump’s toxic personality, the talk about Trump’s divisiveness — all of it is just a cover for the fact that those on the cultural left despise those who aren’t on the political left. They see them as idiots and rubes (W.), or as evil manipulators (Cheney). For them, Trump isn’t an outlier — he’s merely the latest iteration of the dastardly conservative movement that launched with Nixon, extended through Reagan, grew to Bush, and now culminates in Trump. At least McKay is honest enough to admit that simple fact. Trump, for the Left, isn’t a departure from conservatism. He’s just another variation on a theme: All conservatives are evil.
Which is why, of course, Trump is the president right now. Leftist contempt for conservatives seeps through Hollywood and drips off our television and movie screens. And conservatives responded in 2016 to that contempt by nominating a man who wouldn’t take an insult, who wouldn’t respect the office of the presidency enough to forgo a cultural fight. Those on the right elected Trump more to fight those like McKay than to fight those like Nancy Pelosi. That’s why they revel in Trump’s tweets (see Schitt, Adam) and his willingness to slam anyone who knocks him (see Admiral McRaven). Trump doesn’t take, for lack of a better word, schitt. And conservatives have been taking it for far too long.
There’s one problem for conservatives, however: They’re missing that McKay and his colleagues aren’t the target audience. The anti-Bush films bombed because most Americans don’t see politics the same way McKay does. They do appreciate class in the Oval Office, and they do take dignity seriously. That’s why Bush won reelection in 2004, to McKay’s horror. The best revenge against Hollywood is political success, not temporarily cathartic blowback. Which is why Republicans — and President Trump — would do well to remember that strategic cultural warfare is useful, but if conservatism isn’t advanced, McKay and his ilk will sleep better at night.