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Meet Bush's Brain

August 27, 2004 14:54 IST

A still from Bush's BrainAsk leftists what Bush's Brain is about, and some of them would surely say, as the Progressive Newswire promoting the film declared recently: It is about the most powerful political figure America has ever heard of.

That man happens to be Karl Rove (seen left with Bush). Some consider him the most powerful and wily political consultant in American history. Some even call him a co-president.

Many Americans have heard of Rove, at least those who read the book Bush's Brain by two liberal journalists, Wayne Slater and James C Moore. Now we have filmmakers Joseph Mealey and Michael Paradies Shoob offering yet another anti-Bush film.

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Much before Michael Moore's docudrama Fahrenheit 9/11 drew attention worldwide when Disney refused to have it released and much before it went to gross over $110 million in North America alone, a handful of filmmakers were working on documentary films on the Bush Administration.

Bush's Brain released in many American cities on the eve of this coming week's Republican National Convention in New York. Robert Greenwald's Uncovered: The War On Iraq is already in several theaters in New York and half a dozen cities.

Like Moore, Mealey and Shoob also do not pretend they are above partisanship. For Bush's Brain, based on the book of the same name, examines how Karl Rove rose to become the man behind the most powerful political executive in the world.

It takes as its theme that Bush without Rove is an ineffectual politician and leader. Interviews with political journalists, Democratic opponents and even a few dissenting Republicans, who do not like Rove's ruthless tactics and relentless drive to push the rightwing agenda, appear throughout the film.

The film offers an interesting, though not startling, angle. But it does not work hard to justify it. It argues Rove sowed the seeds in Bush that the invasion of Iraq could be a marketing tool. Rove thought by turning Bush into a 'war president' for the 2004 presidential campaign, Americans would think of him as a tough, determined, focused and brave president.

A still from Bush's BrainThe film focuses on how Rove 'manufactured' George W Bush (seen left with US Vice-President Dick Cheney), by turning the underachiever son of a former president, into a politically savvy and shamelessly maneuvering politician.

The filmmakers are convinced that Rove is an utterly ruthless and amoral politician who is not satisfied in just defeating his rivals. He wants to have them destroyed. In dealing with this thesis, Bush's Brain runs out of steam because the argument is not always backed with strong evidence.

But even then the film offers colourful details. Eighteen years ago during the Texas gubernatorial campaign, Rove, the film alleges, planted a bug in his own office, and went on to blame his opponents. And in doing so, he ensured his own ascendancy. Rove's tricks include effective smear campaign against Republicans like Senator John McCain who are capable of challenging Rove's creation: George W Bush.

Arguably, it was outside the movie's scope but it could have raised a few questions: One of them would revolve around Bush's popularity. Why is that despite many of the best-selling books and newspaper articles that severely criticise Bush and his gang, millions of Americans, including hordes of middle class voters and low-paid workers, love to see him in the White House again?

And at least in passing, the film could have looked at how dirty tricks have become part of American politics, irrespective of leftwing or rightwing politics. The Clinton White House had its own share of not one but several Roves.

Still, it is an engrossing, stimulating, and often frightening film.

Arthur J Pais in Ndew York