BUSH'S BRAIN


Director: Joseph Mealey, Michael Shoob
Writing Credits: based on the book Bush's Brain by James Moore and Wayne Slater
Distributor: Tartan Films
Rated: PG
Run Time: 80 minutes

There's a peculiar dynamic that happens sometimes when a man of little social skills comes across one who's highly charismatic; when a man whom life has consisted of being kicked from pillar to post runs across one of those golden boys who seem to get all the breaks. You know the kind of guy I'm talking about -- the class nerd, the dork, the captain of the chess club who can't throw a baseball, who doesn't know how to dress, whose hairline begins to recede in high school. He's often one of the smartest guys in the class, but no one cares, because brains have no currency value in a culture that values looks and charm.

If you're the golden boy who is the chosen obsession of this guy, if, say, your name is William Jefferson Clinton, the guy who becomes obsessed with you is named Cliff Jackson. He's a member of the "Alliance for the Rebirth of an Independent America" -- the same kind of shadowy group as the current Swift Boat Liars. He manages a couple of Arkansas State Troopers in the release of their story of witnessing and covering up your extramarital liaisons when you were Governor. He does this because he feels it's unfair that fate has dealt you so many advantages, and his envy leads him to try to destroy you. He's Tom Ripley to your Dickie Greenleaf.

If you're luckier, and your name is, oh, say, George Walker Bush, the dork of whom you are the object of his obsession is named Karl Rove, and instead of wanting to destroy you, he makes the pragmatic decision that since his own balding, lumpy persona is unlikely to ever put him in the White House, he'll put YOU there instead.

Karl Rove wasn't a political novice when he latched onto George W. Bush. Wayne Slater, co-author of BUSH'S BRAIN, the book on which Michael Shoob and Joseph Mealey's new documentary about the man behind the throne is based, reports that a childhood in an apolitical, non-religious home in Salt Lake City with a largely absentee father left Rove gravitating towards structures which offered permanence and authority..He found these in the Republican party, and became an avid soldier in the Republican army, to the extent of having a role, albeit a small one, in the Nixon Watergate scandals, when he came under fire for encouraging dirty tricks politicking in the 1972 Presidential race. After muscling his way into the presidency of the national College Republicans organization in 1973 through a procedural challenge and being anointed president by George Herbert Walker Bush, he, along with his friend Lee Atwater, became a Poppy protege. (Interesting sidenote: Rove's opponent was none other than the infamous Terry Dolan, the founder of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which was the granddaddy of the Arkansas Project, A.R.I.A., and the Swift Boat Liars for Bullshit.)

BUSH'S BRAIN goes into some detail about "When Karl Met W". Co-author James Moore describes a meeting that sounds peculiarly like love at first sight. Rove was so captivated by the -- sorry, but there's no other word for it -- astoundingly butch George W., with his cowboy clothes and his cowboy mannerisms and his aw-shucks demeanor that his first response was that he wanted to BE like Bush, and then settled for making Bush president. As described by Moore, Karl Rove comes across as a homoerotic stalker -- a characterization that may not be all that far from the truth. The fact that Rove seems to be living vicariously through the more mediagenic man is a fascinating -- and terrifying -- aspect to this story and to the entire Rove/Bush relationship, and warrants more explanation than it is given here.

After an inauspicious early beginning to his political career with managing George W's initial losing run for state legislature, he was able to machinate a complete Republican takeover of Texas elective offices in just over a decade, culminating with W's defeat of the popular Ann Richards after a whispering campaign that the governor was a lesbian, after all, why else would she hire so many gays and lesbians to work on her campaign?

For those of us obsessively following the investigative press and the blogosphere for the last four years, BUSH'S BRAIN contains little that's new. However, what it does do is distill, in its compact 80 minutes of running time, enough of the sociopsychopathology of Karl Rove and enough of the dirty tricks he's pulled out of his sleeve for the past twenty years, to make it easier to identify them as we enter the heat of the 2004 Presidential campaign. As documentaries go, it's a pedestrian one. It's simply lays out its points one by one, with no attempts at turning them into a compelling film. Like the documentaries of Robert Greenberg, it preaches to the choir without offering enough actual "filmmaking" to interest either film buffs or those sitting on the fence.

Still, BUSH'S BRAIN is a film that I believe needed to be made, since the political climate we have endured since 1988, led by a Republican party that not only wants to win, but win by whatever means necessary, and not just defeat the opposition, but crush it out of its very existence, is only destructive to democracy in the long run. It presupposes that only one side has the best interests of the country at heart and the other is treasonous, rather than allowing that both sides want the best for America, they just differ on what that best is and how to get there.

When presented with a distillation of Rove's fingerprints all in one place, and seeing this kind of dirty tricks politicking as a pattern, makes it easier to recognize this kind of scorched earth tactic such as is currently being engaged in by the Swift Boat Liars (with Rove's help). Advertisements which sell lies as truth, and refuse to acknowledge them as lies even when they're exposed, are the kind of tactics which lead to fascism, and to dictatorship. George W. Bush has stated repeatedly that leading would be easier in a dictatorship, just as long as he's the dictator.

With Rove's love of authoritarianism, I would guess that W. has got his "Turd Blossom" working on that even as we speak.

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