Bush's Brain Misdiagnosed
by Ari Armstrong, November 10, 2004
Whom do we believe when somebody nastily attacks a person for being nasty? The only recourse is to look at all the evidence and try to let it speak for itself as much as possible. Even though most of Michael Moore's criticisms of Bush are completely wrong as well as vindictive, I found a few valuable points in his movie.
Unfortunately, better leftist documentaries than Moore's got far less attention. Recently I enjoyed watching "Bush's Brain," a film about Karl Rove, and "Control Room," a recounting of the Arabian television network al Jazeera preceding and during the Iraq war.
"Control Room" is particularly valuable in that it provides excellent insights into how intelligent Arabs view Bush and the war. The representatives of al Jazeera are obviously well-educated and thoughtful, even though they report the news from a definite bias. At least they weren't shy about expressing their views. I actually agree with al Jazeera that war should be reported in all its horror, because the truth is that war is horrible. At the same time, my sense is that al Jazeera went out of its way to report the American campaign in the most negative light possible. That Iraqis don't like getting bombed comes as no surprise. Judging from "Control Room," al Jazeera didn't spend nearly as much time detailing the close and direct ties between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations.
One claim made in "Control Room" is that the U.S. government purposely targeted journalists in bombing attacks. Whether or not the bombing was intentional, a journalist with al Jazeera was killed.
"Bush's Brain" convinced me that Karl Rove is a nasty campaigner who treats politics as a war and who frequently blurs ethical lines. Nevertheless, the film makes numerous allegations that have never been proved, as people in the film admit. Thus, the film tries to create a suggestive portrait of Rove, but it often uses invisible ink. For example, the film suggests Rove may have once bugged his own office to get the opposition into trouble, and he may have sent the FBI after opponents. Well, maybe that's true, and maybe it's just a fantasy of people who obviously hate Rove and Bush, such as the sappy columnist Molly Ivins, who is interviewed at length in the film. At least the film allows Rove and his supporters to offer a few words in defense.
But the creators of "Bush's Brain" prove they're every bit as nasty and unethical as they claim Rove to be when they spent the last segments of the film suggesting Rove went into war purely for political reasons. True enough, Rove supported the war, and he also told Republicans they should campaign on the issue of war. But that hardly suggests Rove advocated war for political purposes. Yet that's the illogical conclusion the film suggests we draw.
The creators of "Bush's Brain" underplay one rather important fact: the United States was attacked by foreign aggressors, and some 3,000 American citizens were murdered on our home soil. Spain, the Netherlands, Egypt, Israel, the United States, Iraq, Sudan -- this only begins to list the regions where militant Islamists have murdered innocent people. Did the Republicans campaign on the issue of the war? Of course they did! So did the Democrats. A campaigning politician would be insane to ignore the most pressing problem of our time.
Both "Control Room" and "Bush's Brain" do level one powerful criticism against Bush and his administration: they did not tell the American people the truth about the Iraq war. Bush said he went to war in Iraq to "liberate" the Iraqis -- a line many Iraqis used against him when speaking to al Jazeera. Bush said he went to war to destroy weapons of mass destruction -- a claim that has led to leftist criticism that Bush lied to get into the war for political reasons.
Bush did not give the American people the whole truth about the Iraq war. Why is this? The best explanation I've heard is that the neoconservatives, influenced as they are ultimately by Plato, very much believe in a ruling elite that must control the masses. I think Bush's administration stretched the case about weapons of mass destruction because it didn't believe Americans would buy into the real motive.
Yet this motive is hardly a mystery. It is mentioned in "Control Room" but not in "Bush's Brain." The motive, quite obviously, was to establish an American-friendly country in the heart of the Middle East. A quick glance at the map confirms this. Was this a good reason to go to war? I'm not persuaded, but only an ignoramus or a partisan hack would dismiss it out of hand. Bush's strategy seems to be working to some degree. We'll know in about a decade how well it worked. Regardless, I think Bush would have had a lot more success if he had been more careful to tell the American people -- and the world -- his full thinking behind the Iraq war.
The very title, "Bush's Brain," is an ad hominem attack: it suggests Bush cannot think for himself but relies entirely on Rove. No doubt, Rove had a powerful influence on Bush from the outset, and Bush would not be President today but for Rove. But so what? You've got to be pretty smart to take advice from smart people. The creators of "Bush's Brain" spend so much time wandering into irrelevancies, unproved allegations, and vicious attacks that they undermine their own case.
I'm not happy that Rove's candidate won a second term in the White House -- indeed, I voted for Kerry -- but that doesn't mean I think any higher of Rove's opponents. A tin man's mockery of somebody's brain rings, well, a little hollow.