Thank heaven Bush Co was able to dominate the headlines this morning with the surprise early transfer of pseudo-sovereignty (here for the Doonesbury synopsis) to Iraq two days ahead of schedule. Otherwise, the leading stories could have been any of the following: the Supreme Court rejection of a key tactic in Bush’s “War On Terror,” Bush’s failure to convince NATO to send troops to Iraq (I could hardly believe my ears last week when I heard Bush telling NATO they had a “responsibility” to assist in securing Iraq; NATO has a responsibility to get Bush out of his “mess o’potamia” ???), the abduction of an American marine, or the box office record-setting opening of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” (leading even in “red states“).
Remember Afghanistan? —
The “defeated” Taliban killed 16 people because they were carrying voter registration cards.
How absolutely shocking —
Billions in Iraq oil revenues are unaccounted for.
Fahrenheit 9/11 —
I was able to join friends to see the show Saturday afternoon, thanks to their fine logistical work in securing tickets and a good place in a gratifyingly long line. (Thanks, C, D, and E!) By now you’ve read dozens of reviews (Slate has two good ones – Hitchins’ thumbs-down [of course; but he makes some fair points] and Edelstein’s thumbs-up). My take: I doubt that it will really change any minds, because the people who most need to see this movie are least likely to attend; they are the ones who will organize boycotts and phone in threats and do whatever else is necessary to prevent their own and their neighbors’ convictions from being challenged by fact. It will, however, cohere and energize those who are already actively working for “regime change” in November.
If you’ve been reading books like House of Bush, House of Saud and following the “alternative press” tracking of the evolution of the Patriot Act (e.g., here), there is little that will surprise you, much to distress you (film footage of bombing victims – US and Iraqi alike; footage of a heartbroken elderly Iraqi woman sobbing “where are you, God!”), and some cheap but well-deserved laughs: Moore managed to secure film footage that makes each of the Bush Co players look as evil and conniving and deranged as they already loom in our heads (again, assuming this movie is preaching to the choir). Each shot of the Cheney Sneer generated audience hisses. A long segment of Bush “on camera” but not yet “live” to announce the beginning of war in Iraq shows him for many moments looking terrified and vacuous at the same time; then he seems to — I can’t be sure — catch his image in a monitor?, or perhaps he sees an “imaginary friend”?, and he smirks, nods, slides his eyes sideways… Paul Wolfowitz sops his comb and his fingers with spit in order to slick his hair into place while he is being prepped for the camera. Some of the best laughs come from Moore’s choice of background music: “We gotta get out of this place,” plays while the bin Laden family is shown fleeing the country; Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” plays while Moore-as-narrator discusses Bush’s altered National Guard records. The movie’s least necessary elements include virtually any of Moore’s on camera moments, and a long segment on state trooper cutbacks in Oregon. His argument that the army targets the economically disadvantaged for recruiting, while compelling, doesn’t add a great deal to the movie narrative.
Bush is able to look simultaneously vacuous and evil through much of the movie. (Moore certainly set out to facilitate this impression through his careful selection of film footage, but the material was there for the picking. This is not a special effect.) This is a combination of traits that I’ve struggled to reconcile in my understanding of Bush during the last four years. I always thought that to be truly, effectively evil, it is necessary to possess SOME mental agility, which is already more than I’m willing to attribute to Bush. But there it is, frame after frame. An empty, and yet menacing look. (Which reminds me: doesn’t the remake of the “Manchurian Candidate” look interesting?)
Will the right people see this movie? That tiny percentage who say they haven’t yet made up their minds? For them, this movie has at least one good take-home message, stammered by Bush himself. “There’s an old saying in Tennesee… Well, we have it in Texas. You probably have it in Tennessee, too. It says, ‘fool me once…'” [– obvious groping, looking down at notes, long pause — ] ‘shame on you. [– another long pause –] Fool me again…’ [furrows brow, leans forward on the podium, waits for the second half of the saying to come to him] … See, the thing is, we can’t get fooled again!”
Couldn’t have said it better, myself, Mr. President! (OK, yes, I probably could have.)