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Bush's Brain (2004)

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An examination of political consultant Karl Rove's influence on George W. Bush's candidacy.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Cathy Bonner ...
Herself - Richards Campaign Official
Bruce Buchanan ...
Himself - Presidential Scholar, University of Texas
Max Cleland ...
Himself - U.S. Senate, Georgia (D) 1997-2003
Shirley Cuff ...
Herself - Proprietor
Robert Edgeworth ...
Himself - Professor of Classics, Louisiana State University
Kent Hance ...
Himself - Bush's Opponent for Congress 1978
Bill Israel ...
Himself - University of Massachusetts
Molly Ivins ...
Herself - Author, Political Columnist
Richard Leiby ...
Himself - 'Reliable Source' Columnist, Washington Post
Susie Lieseke ...
Wade Lieseke Jr. ...
Himself - Former Nye Co. Sheriff, Tonopah, NV (as Wade Lieseke)
Ken Luce ...
Himself - Campaign Manager for Rick Perry
Garry Mauro ...
Himself - Former Texas State Land Commissioner
Chuck McDonald ...
Himself - Former Richards Press Secretary
Dave McNeely ...
Himself - Political Columnist, Austin American-Statesman


An examination of political consultant Karl Rove's influence on George W. Bush's candidacy.

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:




Release Date:

13 March 2004 (USA)  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$11,927 (USA) (20 August 2004)


$11,927 (USA) (20 August 2004)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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User Reviews

Wish it had been better.
1 November 2004 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

I wish this had been better. I pretty much believe the argument the producers present but it seems to me that if you're not already convinced of the righteousness of their position, this documentary will not convince you.

It'll probably infuriate you.

A half dozen talking heads, all but one of whom feel they have suffered at the hands of Rove, point out -- or rather intimate -- Rove's complete commitment to pragmatism. Whether a thing is good or bad can be judged only from its consequences. Rove doesn't give a rat's behind how he achieves the goals he defines as good ones. Karl Rove has turned politics into an instrument of warfare. He's taken von Clausewitz and turned him on his head.

A lot of data points are thrown at us in this disjointed polemic but the writers don't really connect them. The reason they don't connect the dots is that they can't. Nothing can be proved. The talking heads have to evidence to show us, they just tell anecdotes, each one of which could probably be glossed with an explanatory comment that absolves Karl Rove.

The problem for anyone who doubts Rove's influence is that these minor points pile up, and we can add to them from other things we've learned during this campaign, not brought up in the film. There is a preponderance of evidence of a hidden hand in these dirty tricks. The same smear tactics reappear when Rove is running Bush's campaigns. During the Republican campaign of 2000, McCain unexpectedly beat Bush in New Hampshire. So in the next state primary, South Carolina, McCain's record as a war hero was turned against him by a whisper campaign picked up by news-hungry media. The rumors are started by flyers found under the windshields of cars in church parking lots after services. And radio talk shows are flooded with calls questioning McCain's character. McCain allows himself to be publicly irritated sometimes. (He's pretty blunt.) Maybe, it was rumored, his many years as a prisoner in Vietnam had unbalanced him. Well, a similar manipulation has been applied to Kerry, without this being brought up in the film. Kerry's war record was used as a tool against him (he lied, he wrote his own recommendation for a medal, or whatever) and when Kerry finally responded with some heat, the response was, "He's losing his cool." (That's a quote from the WH Press Secretary.) You can't help feeling that if Kerry had gotten REALLY mad, his opponents would accuse him of being unbalanced, just like McCain.

If Rove is behind some of these dirty tricks, which seems entirely plausible, then you have to admire the guy. He's like Professor Moriarty. He doesn't actually DO the job, but has someone do it for him so that he leaves no fingerprints. He's just a chubby affable guy who avoids the spotlight and pulls the strings.

It has to be understood that dirty tricks have always been a part of politics. Nobody would dispute that. But when Rove is involved the tricks turn positively filthy and sometimes illegal. It's filthy, for instance, to suggest that Senator McCain's adopted Bengladesh little girl is the "love child" that resulted from his dalliance with a black prostitute. And it's illegal (under a law passed during G. H. W. Bush's administration) for "senior officials" to expose the identity of an undercover CIA operative for purposes of revenge. Especially when the operative's job is to monitor any movement of potential nuclear materials to prevent their falling into the hands of terrorists.

The final sequence (the grieving family of a KIA) was not connected to the rest of the film and it made me wince with its lack of taste. I also didn't care for the voice-over reading of Karl Rove's letter throughout the film. The voice was made deliberately evil. Have you seen any episodes of "Victory at Sea"? Remember how the narrator pronounces the word "Japanese"? Same here. I felt my head was being squeezed in a vice. The argument was strong enough to speak for itself.

5 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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