Film-Forward Review: [BUSH'S BRAIN]

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Directed & Produced by: Michael Paradies Shoob & Joseph Mealey.
Based on the book Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush President by James C. Moore & Wayne Slater.
Director of Photography: Joseph Mealey.
Edited by: Tom Siiter.
Music by: Michelle Shocked & David Friedman.
Released by: Tartan Films.
Country of Origin: USA. 80 min. Not Rated.

The timing of Bush’s Brain, Michael Paradies Shoob and Joseph Mealey’s exposé of presidential advisor Karl Rover, is certainly fortuitous. Recent attacks on the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry follow a pattern traced in this film. The documentary’s point of view is obvious, opening with a shot of Bush being sworn in followed by the question, “How did this happen?” What the film makes clear is that wherever Rowe’s career has taken him, a stench has followed. Even his first campaign for the chairmanship for the College Republicans in the early 1970s was a knock-down fight. John Weaver, who worked with Rove in Texas Governor Bill Clements’ 1986 re-election campaign, can’t utter his former colleague’s name today. Weaver more than implies that Rowe planted a microphone in his own office to bring suspicion to the opposing candidate. There is a lot of finger pointing and speculation throughout the film. The closest revelation to a smoking gun is the interview with a magazine editor who received a phone call as part of a whisper campaign against then Texas governor Ann Richards. Her opponent was George W. Bush, whose campaign was advised by Rove.

Bush's Brain slows down in the convoluted episode involving Rove, the FBI, and the Texas Department of Agriculture. Only in passing does the film reveal Rove was fired by the Reagan-Bush White House for a leak to Robert Novak (the same writer who outed Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson’s wife as a CIA agent perhaps in retaliation for Wilson contradicting Bush’s State of the Union address). And a sequence depicting the tragic effect of the war in Iraq on a military family feels obligatory and out of place in this political biography. The lead up to the conflict is more thoroughly examined in Uncovered: The War in Iraq.

However, there is no denying the relevancy of the film. The segments depicting the dirty campaigns directed toward Georgia Senator Max Cleland and John McCain, Bush’s opponent for the Republican nomination in 2000, are startling, mirroring the current criticism directed toward Kerry. Within the past week, it has been revealed that a longtime political associate of Rove’s, Bob J. Perry, has given $200,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who have leveled unsubstantiated charges against Kerry’s war record; and that Benjamin L. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, has resigned after acknowledging he provided legal advice to the same group. Kent Turner
August 27, 2004



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