Deface the Nation

May 9, 2008

This snap of Josh Brolin as George W. Bush in the upcoming Dubya biopic from Oliver Stone is worthy of study. The big question about the film is whether it will portray Bush as basically evil or basically stupid. There is a whole spectrum of shadings between those two poles, and I’m afraid that Stone doesn’t have the savvy to capture them.

This image, for example, suggests stupidity will prevail: this version of Dubya looks like a guy who’s just taken a dump and can’t decide if he should wipe himself or start shining his shoes. That’s all wrong. The current occupant of the White House — not the president, never call him that around me — is a dolt in many ways, but he’s also got loads of low animal cunning and a bottomless sense of entitlement.

To contrast him with Richard Nixon (the last subject of one of Stone’s historical fantasias), I would say that Nixon acted like a man who wanted to get even with the world, while Dubya acts like a man who wants to use the world like a ten-dollar hooker and then swagger off to church.

It’s tempting and maybe even cathartic for people to write Bush off as the world’s luckiest village idiot, but the last eight years have not been the work of such a fool. Remember, folks, he took America’s measure, gauged its weaknesses and then went to work. George W. Bush decided to play directly to everything that was crappy, lazy and ugly about America, and it paid off for him in every important way. He lied us into a war, corrupted the Constitution and looted the treasury, all the while smirking in the knowledge that the corporate-lobotomized press wouldn’t even raise its voice. At the end of his term, George W. Bush is going home instead of going to jail. He wins.

We are now in the position of a mugging victim who must wait for his head to clear while hoping the injuries won’t be permanent, and then try to figure out how to avoid similar victimization in the future. Making a movie about a drawling dummy with daddy issues might be temporarily satisfying, but it won’t help us in the real task of recovering from the Great Bush Bust-Out.

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