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February 07, 2006

The Skull Beneath The Skin

Who is this?

Hint: he's a powerful American political figure who was part of several administrations and vociferously supported an unpopular war.

Answer below.

Incredibly enough, that is not Dick Cheney, but Walt Rostow. In the Johnson administration Rostow was Special Advisor to the President for National Security (what's now called National Security Advisor). Under Kennedy he was Deputy Special blah blah blah. And he wrote speeches for Eisenhower. He was widely loathed for his tremendous enthusiasm for the Vietnam war.

The pictures are from Rostow's appearance in the documentary Hearts and Minds. And in fact, they don't do his resemblance to Cheney justice. Everything about him is exactly the same: his body language, tone of voice, and more.

This makes me wonder if everyone has a Cheney/Rostow inside them, and evil and power are a type of solvent that given enough time dissolves everything else about someone...leaving only this behind.

Posted at February 7, 2006 07:11 PM | TrackBack

I was thinking, before I flipped the fold, that you've been on a roll with the blogpost titles, but knowing the theory behind your phrasing raises it to a whole new level of skin-crawling evocation. Wow, that's creepy as hell.

The resemblance to RotJ post mask removal Darth is, of course, noteworthy. Somewhere I saw a page documenting Richard Dreyfuss's apparent channeling of Cheney to play a similar role. . . maybe it's such a deeply recognized archetype because it's waiting inside us all.

Posted by: Saheli at February 7, 2006 08:50 PM

Man, shut up.

Posted by: Walt Rostow's Ghost at February 7, 2006 08:53 PM

Brilliant Man! Brilliant.

Get your team to shovel a side by side clip over to Crooks and Liars, so that it makes the morning talk show circuit. ...Smacks head! Oh yeah, this is the left blogsphere. Ideas win here on merit not coordination and hypermangement.
(lol ;-))

Seriously this is great. I wish there was some way I could bring you a bigger audience.

Posted by: patience at February 7, 2006 11:03 PM

And they say humans have yet to be cloned…

Posted by: mk at February 7, 2006 11:16 PM

It's the lips. The one-side-up/one-side-down thing (that comes from decades of smiling as you put the boot in?), and the permanently raised outer edge of the upper lips (from years of flashing your canines to enemies?). Anyway, I think if Dick himself read this post, he'd tell you to "go [Pat Leahy] yourself."

Posted by: Mike G at February 7, 2006 11:38 PM

What I love about these photos is that they come from one of the greatest scenes in that film. "Do I really have to answer this damn fool question? Do we really need to go back and -- well, alright, I'll do it, but this is pretty pedestrian stuff...."

What a dick.

Posted by: d at February 8, 2006 01:18 AM

The even bigger blooper was that what he was describing, the "pedestrian stuff", (I seem to recall "sophomore" instead of pedestrian), was a complete fabrication, something to the effect that Ho Chi Minh would never have been elected if fair elections had been held. Regardless of what you think of Ho Chi Minh, he would have swept the polls handily as just about all halfway neutral observers pointed out, but the ideological fog shrouding Foggy Bottom's articulate ones is truly awe inspiring...

Posted by: sk at February 8, 2006 03:47 AM

I think that was Bob Harris, wrt the Richard Dreyfuss/Cheney thing -

Posted by: saurabh at February 8, 2006 02:37 PM

You might be on to something, Jon.

Should we call this the "Anti-Karma Hypothesis"?

Or is that too restrictive? A little intellectual massage (and some sober reflection) might enable us to 'expand' the conjecture to account for several other similar and heretofore inexplicible sociological (and/or sociopathological) phenomena too: Like Elvisness, for instance...

Surely the Donald is not the first Trumpicality any of us ever saw. And what about our recent rash of--what should we call them--Patrobertsonians? Take a look around you, there's nothing even REMOTELY original about THOSE clownes...

Posted by: Mike at February 8, 2006 05:33 PM

This is an ethnically biased thread. You're only dissolved till you look like this if you are Caucasian. If you're a powermonger in an East Asian society for example, you will look completely different.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at February 8, 2006 07:20 PM

I am ashamed to say, En Ming Hee, that I think part of my horror was the image of someone like me, in America, *still* dissolving into a Dick Cheney. Which, you know, would be a threefer--dissolving into a skull, white AND male.

Posted by: Saheli at February 8, 2006 11:19 PM

sk, you are almost correct.
"Ho Chi Minh, he would have swept the polls handily as just about all halfway neutral observers pointed out"

Even the most 'biased' observers, the Pentagon war planners, conceded this, which was in fact the nub of their problem.

Haven't seen the film, but if Rostow suggests otherwise, as you seem to indicate, you're right to call it a fabrication. I only object to the hint that there were any rational observers at the time who believed otherwise.

Posted by: Half at February 9, 2006 12:42 PM

Going farther afield, there are some telling juxtapositions in the review of Heart and Minds that Jon's linked to over at

For example, the reviewer, David Ng, has no trouble saying that "[H&M director] Davis' claims to journalistic impartiality seem disingenuous," while at the same time Ng writes of "the South Vietnamese, on whose behalf we fought."

Posted by: Half at February 9, 2006 02:51 PM