Movie Review: Bush's Brain

A couple of weeks ago I received an advance copy of the forthcoming movie Bush's Brain, based upon the book of the same name by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater. The subject of the movie is Karl Rove's professional history as a political operative, his relationship with George Bush, and the series of terrible events and slander that have been thrown at any candidate who has ever run against a Rove-led campaign. The movie opens in Texas on Friday and will gradually expand to other cities starting on August 27.

To avoid spoilers, I have placed the review in the extended section.

I always thought the strangest criticism of Fahrenheit 911 was that it was "deceptive," as though that was something new to political campaigning. Has there ever been a campaign advertisement that has not been deceptive? Has there ever been a purely truthful piece of agitprop? Works such as Fahrenheit 911 are designed to be persuasive, and any persuasive argument that uses even a little bit of rhetoric is necessarily deceptive. I never understood why the RNC itself felt it was necessary to make such strong statements against the movie, which did nothing to diffuse its claims but everything to drive up the movie's publicity.

Now, this is not to wallow in solipsistic, nihilist, sophist postmodernism where there is no reality behind image and no possibility of shared truth claims. Some pieces of agitprop stick better than others. Some claims are made with a greater amount of evidence than others, and some pieces are more persuasive than others. Bush's Brain is definitely in the "more evidence, more persuasive," category. In fact, Bush's Brain is so strong on this front, and so specific in its target, that it has the potential to be the most powerful piece of agitprop of all the new wave of leftist documentaries. If this movie is seen by enough people before November 2nd, it might just seal the election for Kerry, as it would end the effectiveness of any negative attacks against him.

The register of the piece is subdued and almost conversational--more Control Room than Fahrenheit 911 or the Corporation. This itself helps to raise its credibility level. Further, Bush's Brain methodically discusses a series of events during Rove's political career, all with a significant amount of evidence behind them, in order to produce an extremely disturbing picture of his standard campaign operating procedure. These events include:

  • In 1972, breaking into the campaign headquarters of a statewide Democratic candidate in Illinois, stealing campaign stationary, and then using the stationary to send 1,500 people to the wrong location for a major campaign rally.

  • In 1973, rigging the national College Republican national convention in order to guarantee his election as president, and subsequently lying about his opponent to George H. W. Bush, the RNC chairman at the time, in order to have his opponent expelled from the Republican Party.

  • In 1980, being fired from the Reagan-Bush campaign for leaking sensitive campaign information to the press.

  • In 1986, bugging his own office in the Texas Gubernatorial campaign, blaming it the opposing campaign, getting the FBI involved, and then lying about how long the bug had been there.

  • In 1990, using the same agent involved in the 1986 bugging incident, convincing the FBI to unjustly prosecute two members of Jim Hightower's staff during Rick Perry's campaign for Agriculture Secretary.

  • In 1994, during Bush's Gubernatorial campaign, starting a rumor campaign that Ann Richards was a lesbian.

  • In 2000, during the Republican primary, starting the rumor campaigns, push polling and flyer advertisements that McCain had a child with an African-American prostitute and was mentally unstable from his time as a POW in Vietnam.

  • In 2002, running the smear campaign against Max Cleland in the Georgia Senatorial campaign.
It all paints a pretty damning picture of Rove's behavior in political campaigns. More importantly, it raises serious questions about the new slime oozing out of conservative websites about Kerry's service in Vietnam or his time in Cambodia, or any such future slander that might arise. Attacks of that sort are exactly the sort of tactic that has been used against every single one of Rove's opponents in almost every campaign he has previously run, whether he was facing a Democrat or a Republican. Now, as in the past, all of these attacks are baseless.

In fact, by pointing out the history of Rove's behavior, Bush's Brain successfully raises significant doubt about any charge ever leveled against a candidate running against Rove. If it was to reach wide enough distribution and public awareness, it would serve as a powerful inoculation against any further slander that will be hurled Kerry's way in the final three months of the campaign. The movie is a great success because it uses many of Rove's techniques against Rove himself, but provides enough evidence and discusses enough incidents to make the charges nearly impossible to dismiss.

Ultimately, the success of Bush's Brain as a piece of agitprop will be determined by how many theaters it can reach, how many papers it will be reviewed in, how many people will end up talking about it, and how many people will go see it. Considering this, I give it a big, fat, four-star thumb up. Go to the theaters if you can. Buy the DVD or book if you can. Most importantly, however, bring a swing voter or Republican leaning friend to come and see it with you. If enough people see this movie, it will be more important and have more impact than even Fahrenheit 911.

Tags: Media (all tags)



Boy Genuis....
is another good book focusing of Rove.  Short, sweet and to the point.  I highly reccomend it.
by Reid 2004-08-15 02:54PM | 0 recs
I didn't realize its a movie too
I had the book in my hands today while browsing in the bookstore. I almost bought it, but glad I didn't. I'll wait for the movie now. Not because of laziness, but because there are so many books on the political bookshelf that caught my eye. Only have so much time to read, and I'd rather spend with anti-Bush books that aren't movie-ized. And boy, there sure are a lot of them! I'm a little overwhelmed by it.
by claw 2004-08-15 03:35PM | 0 recs
Sounds interesting
Thanks for the review!

This documentary needs to be noticed by the main stream media. I can only imagine that Republicans won't give it the same attention they gave F911, so it'll likely never receive much notice.

by rob 2004-08-16 11:24AM | 0 recs


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