The Murrow, Polk, and IDA Award-winning documentary Boogie Man is about Lee Atwater, a blues-playing rogue whose rise from the South to Chairman of the GOP made him a political rock star. ...
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Nicholas D. Wrathall
William F. Buckley,
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The Murrow, Polk, and IDA Award-winning documentary Boogie Man is about Lee Atwater, a blues-playing rogue whose rise from the South to Chairman of the GOP made him a political rock star. He mentored George W. Bush and Karl Rove while leading the Republican party to historic victories, helping make liberal a dirty word, and transforming the way America elects our Presidents. In interviews with Republicans and friends of Atwater, Boogie Man examines his role in America's shift to the right. To Democrats offended by the 1988 Willie Horton controversy, Atwater was a remorseless political assassin dubbed by one Congresswoman "the most evil man in America." The film examines his irreverent sense of humor, his understanding of the American heartland, and his unapologetic vision of politics as war. It ends with a portrait of a cynic's deathbed search for meaning. Written by
Much of what is worst in American politics is on display in the career of Lee Atwater, a bogeyman for Democrats he put to the sword with underhand tactics both offensive and dishonest. Two interesting things emerge from this documentary: firstly, that far from being an ideologue, Atwater played the game for its own sake, with a ruthless cynicism so naked as to almost be disarming: sometimes it's easy to love an unashamed rogue, even if that rogue does more harm than a conventional hypocrite. Secondly, although Atwater died (of a brain tumour) in the early 1990s, in many ways, George W. Bush is Atwater's legacy; and indeed, Karl Rove was Atwater's protégé. Michael Dukakis, floored by Atwater's dirtiest campaign, is an interesting interviewee here: he comes across as naive in expecting anything better, and maybe that's the saddest aspect of the way that Atwater changed politics. It's probably mistaken to assign too much influence to one man; but it's also possible to fear that the demon of spin will never return to the box.
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