When I first glimpsed the title to this documentary, I must admit that I was indeed a little taken aback. I never knew George W. Bush had a brain.
However, "Bush's Brain" shows that Georege W. Bush does indeed have a brain working for him; it just happens to be within the head of another individual. The premise of the film is that Karl Rove may be this generation's Senator McCarthy. Rove is to pro-war activities as Senator McCarthy was to communism, both real or imagined, in the early 1950's. By equating genuine questions by everyday citizens about the legitimacy of the war in Iraq with not being patriotic, Rove has set up a dynamic where intelligent discussion of foreign policy is difficult, if not almost impossible. Bush is shown as being co-ruler with Rove, or should I say Rove is co-ruler with Bush?
Rove is part of Bush's advisory team and several people in this film see Rove as wielding as much influence over Bush's decision making as a prime minister. Rove is seen as having marketed the Iraq war as the defining moment for Bush, whom he calls 'the War President'. The war in Iraq, then, is something which legitimizes the presidency for Bush and pushes all other issues aside.
The Rove doctrine, simply stated, is that 'A true American either supports Bush and the Republican party or he is labeled a traitor' (Democrats and dissenting Republicans included). If these statements sound like something from one of George W. Bush's speeches, that is because both Rove and Bush say very similar things, sometimes word for word. The film makes it a point to reveal that it is difficult to know where Bush and Rove differ as individuals; the title of the film is meant to inform us that Bush and Rove are a team and Rove is 'the brain' behind the operations, the power behind the throne.
Rove has a history, according to the film Bush's Brain, of destroying people politically and disrupting the personal lives of those who attempt to oppose him. Rove does these dirty deeds because 'he needs to win at all costs' and Rove lives by the philosophy that 'the ends justify the means'. Many people in the state of Texas have been hurt by Rove. Rove is accused of running dirty campaigns against such people as Ann Richards (former governor of Texas), John Hightower (a Texas commissioner), and several other people in various public offices. One of the most interesting anecdotes concerning Rove's political methods is that Rove once planted a 'bug' in his own office during a campaign and alerted the press so that his candidate would receive sympathy votes. The FBI concluded that the 'bug' was not likely used or even operational, but the political damage to the person challenging Rove's candidate had been done and Rove and his team won the election. Rove is alleged to be the brains behind the smear campaign against John McCain (Republican presidential candidate in 2000).
The script of this film was taken from research done by journalists James C. Moore and Wayne Slater. While it is possible to follow the film without reading the book by these two journalists, which I will paraphrase as Bush's Brains: How Karl Rove Won the Presidency for George W. Bush, I suspect that reading the book would enhance the viewing of this film. A lot of Texas politics are covered in the first half of the film, the particulars of which I was only vaguely familiar. The film does show a pattern of dirty politics which Rove seems to use consistently. It is interesting that Karl Rove declined to be interviewed for the film but he did send a fifteen page letter to the book's authors taking issue with some of their research. One or two people who are presently on good terms (i.e. speaking terms) with Karl Rove were willing to defend Rove's actions during political campaigns. Even his friends admit that he becomes overly consumed with winning. The film was fair and balanced because of this inclusion of people who left their association with Karl Rove on good terms. People who had once been friends with Rove but had fallen from his good graces also were interviewed. They admitted that he is a bright fellow but that he has a deep dark side when it comes to competitiveness - Rove is determined to win at any cost. Where other campaigners would draw the line, Rove will boldly sling excrement and escalate the attacks until he has outright assassinated the character of the opponent unfairly.
After listening to several people who were interviewed about the history of their dealings with Rove, one gets the impression that Rove is a genial man to those he encounters until someone dare crosses him. Rove is very much a hard worker for the Republican candidates for whom he campaigns and represents. If Rove senses or believes that his candidate may lose an election, he is not in the slightest bit hesitant to play the very dirtiest and darkest politics. He is alleged to have been responsible for the complete character assassination of John McCain, where McCain's sanity was called into question during the presidential election back in 2000.
From the interviews of both friends and detractors of Rove, one gets a sense that Karl Rove and Machiavelli would agree that expediency is of the utmost importance in attaining one's goals and outweighs any ethical concerns.
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