Interviewing Viggo Mortensen last Thursday at the Four Seasons brought with it the inevitable political discussion, prompted by my referencing statements the actor had made calling for the impeachment of President Bush in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The following is his political stance and word for word dissection of the administration. Though not pertaining to A History of Violence or film in the slightest, I feel it an important statement that deserves its own coverage. And I agree with every syllable:
'What I don't want is just for Bush to be impeached, because the last person I want in charge of the world is Cheney. He's a total pirate. And this doesn't have to do with left wing, right wing, it doesn't have to do with democrat, republican, it's about honesty. I know that politicians - that's the way the business is, politics - most of them, at some point or another, act in a two-faced way, by necessity it seems, and that governments generally lie. But what Bush and his backers have done is so far beyond, in terms of lying consistently, over and over again. They've taken it to a whole other level, and at the risk of sounding crude, I guess I would ask you this. How can you justify having impeachment proceedings that are costly and extremely distracting to a president that is trying to run the country and deal with things like terrorism? How can you compare having impeachment proceedings against someone for lying about a private sexual encounter or encounters, with a guy who is taking the United States to hell in a hell basket? It's just unbelievable.
'Even what Nixon and his guys did is not nearly as grave, not nearly as serious in terms of its consequences for Americans and the world as what Bush has done - the mismanagement of the country. His platform was basically saying "we're going to take back the country and we're going to run this thing properly. This is going to be about moral values, personal responsibility - fiscal responsibility. The grown-ups are going to be in charge,' this was in 2000, "I'm going to be the C.E.O. I'm going to run the United States like it's a company and I'm going to be responsible to the stockholders' - all this kind of mentality. And then in 2004, it was again moral values, and then it was keeping you safe, national security, fighting terrorism, more personal responsibility - who do you feel safer with - all of those things. All of the planks of these campaign platforms - moral values, which I assume includes not lying and cheating and stealing - but let's just say simply moral values, fiscal responsibility, making us safer, fighting terrorism effectively - all of those things he's failed on miserably.
'I'm actually in favor of conservative values in the sense that they mean, truly, to be careful about your money and the country's money - especially if you've been elected by people and they're paying your salary, and you're responsible for running the economy well - especially if you've been handed a surplus when you take over. But regardless of whether you were or not, if you're a conservative and you keep talking about conservative values and compassionate conservatism, you don't put the country in the whole that you did. It's never happened that during a war, they've cut taxes. That's absurd. It's such a slap in the face to regular people in the country, especially the poorest among it, to cut taxes on people who don't need the tax cut, which is what they did immediately, and in spite of going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to not only want to maintain those tax cuts in the wake of what happened with Hurricane Katrina, but now Rita, which are going to cost as much as or more than the Iraq war, which is already hugely expensive, going past $200 billion. To not only maintain those tax cuts, those handouts to the wealthiest, but to add to that, to give them more handouts, is just unconscionable. It's criminally irresponsible.
'So if you're going to be C.E.O. of the company, if he really was the C.E.O., he would have been fired a long time ago, instead of being backed up just like all the other companies throughout his career that he's been in charge of and run into the ground. Just do it on his own terms. He's failed on all those terms, frankly.
'As far as moral responsibility, a man who condones or engages in - condones in terms of the others around him and in his administration - lying continually, to a degree unprecedented in any administration, I think - whether it's at the behest of Karl Rove and people like that or not, he is in charge, nominally - that's not moral values. They are expert at one thing, and that is changing the subject and evading responsibility. I think that with these hurricanes, which they're trying to use in their own way - and they have an arrogance that is just unparalleled - I think that the attitude of arrogant disregard for the nation and its people and a lack of real interest or concern for Americans, in my knowledge, is unparalleled in American history. It's just so unbelievable.
'I don't think it's an extremist thing or even an impossible thing to ask for, to expect that he and Cheney and others in his administration should be punished and impeached and/or prosecuted. And people like Colin Powell who left with an air about him that he was more morally upstanding and did his duty but really didn't totally approve - he knew he was lying his ass off in front of the U.N. Period. He should be prosecuted too. And every single person, whether it's Condoleezza Rice or Ashcroft or any of them that have screwed up and lied and have been proven to be liars have gotten promoted. How is that moral values?
(After leaving Mr. Mortensen's suite, I was approaching the elevator, having finished this long and enjoyable press day. Hearing the thumping of jogging feet, I turned to see he had chased me down, if only to continue the conversation a bit further and offer up the following piece of humanistic observation.)
'What is admirable, and what's always great to see, is in times of real stress, real crisis, Americans have said "whether their going to do it or not, we're going to do it. We're going to take care of our own.' People have led the way, and hopefully the government will catch up.'