Another week, another film to add to an already sizeable pile of anti-Bush polemics. Adapted from James Moore and Wayne Slater’s bestselling Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, Joseph Mealey and Michael Shoob’s documentary traces Rove’s rise to power within the Republican party and suggests that Dubya would not be President if his Svengali-like campaign manager weren’t pulling his strings. From associates of former Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower to campaign aides who worked for Ann Richards and John McCain, countless interviewees are only too happy to speak to Mealey and Shoob about the lengths to which a Machiavellian Rove has gone to destroy his boss’s political rivals. From whisper campaigns that accused Richards of being a lesbian during her race against Dubya for the Texas governorship to allegations that Rove tapped his own office in 1986 in order to bolster his client Bill Clements’s popularity before a debate against then-governor Mark White, the evidence collected here is all circumstantial, but when there’s so much of it to go around, it’s almost impossible to acquit Rove of wrong-doing. The directors don’t overplay their hand, but they certainly understand the irony of Rove mysteriously getting a copy of Mealey and Shoob’s book way before its publication. If Rove is a scrupulous liar, he’s equally good at covering his tracks. Of course, he remains somewhat of a cipher, in part due to his refusal to participate in the documentary and the insistence of the White House that he remain in his boss’s shadows, but the ultimate weakness of Bush’s Brain may be the decision to have the man cheesily summoned on screen by an evil-sounding narrator who reads the defensive, 15-page facsimile Rove wrote to Mealey and Shoob shortly after he “acquired” Moore and Slater’s book throughout the film. Considering that the purpose of hasty docs like this is to help oust Bush from office, the film’s amateurish aesthetic is easily forgiven, and even if the last-act appearance of a family whose adopted son was killed in Iraq feels random and lazily inspired by Fahrenheit 9/11, it reveals itself as a stirring indictment of the elitist politicking that has motivated George W. Bush’s entire career.
- Tartan Films
- 80 min
- Joseph Mealey, Michael Shoob
- Karl Rove, James C. Moore, Wayne Slater, Greg Rampton, John Weaver, Joseph Wilson, Kent Hance, Jacques Vroom
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