Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Film Review--George W. Bush: Faith in the White House

George W. Bush: Faith in the White House
directed by David W. Balsinger
written by Sharon Dymmel and Joseph Meier

This 2004 documentary clearly intends to sell a specific message to everyone who is already predisposed to consider W. a man of God and the right leader for this country. It is a puff peace over filled with praise for Bush and light on dissent. The only contrary voices we hear are sarcastic, squealy voice overs who the film makes it clear are not to be trusted.

The film attempts to portray W. as a troubled young man who found God and quit his rough and rowdy cowboy ways. It isn’t clear as to which event did the most damage to his hard drinking cocaine sniffing lifestyle but meeting and talking with the Reverend Billy Graham seems to be a starting off point for W that helped him reconnect with the measures of his faith. He also met a traveling preacher who carries a cross with him wherever he goes and the documentary focuses on him as another catalyst for Bush.

George W. Bush is portrayed as a flawed man who rededicated his life to Christ and emerged as a changed man. The film also focuses on his strict regimen and sights it as a tool he employed to help him stay on the straight and narrow. If you are a believer and you pretty much trust W. as your rightful leader, then this film will only solidify your presuppositions. On the other hand, if you consider W. to be a thieving, lying sack of cattle dung you are going to find quite a bit in this film to mock. Either way this film is highly biased and it does grate on the nerves when each person slobbers their praise at the feet of the master. Sycophants of this sort ought to be deep fried and fed to the fat, blind kid in the corner.

There does seem to be quite a bit of evidence that emphatically state that George W. Bush is a man of faith. He prays and reads the bible every day and apparently holds many prayer meetings at the White House. This doesn’t mean that he is a man of integrity which is a connection the film is all too easy to make. It also doesn’t mean he’s going to live a particularly moral life or be a strong leader. The film openly suggests that Bush’s faith makes him a forceful and ethical leader but one does not necessarily follow the other. There are many believers throughout history who have engineered atrocities in God’s name so the film’s essential assertion is at best a fallacy.

For the enemies of the Bush administration there is very little representation in this film. None but fervent admirers are featured in the program; there are only quotes from outsiders featuring those dreadful voices. There is no real opportunity for the opposition to voice their doubts and have their case heard. We are left with pure hyperbole from start to finish and it’s clear this is precisely what the film makers had in mind when the chose this project. Their sole intent is to propagandize for the Religious Right and sell their message straight along the line.

It’s not difficult to extrapolate an idea from this film that may seem either dangerous or righteous depending on your bent. If Bush is a man who has been chosen by God for a sacred mission that only he can complete then it would follow that all of his decisions are also from God. Subsequently, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just wars and were ordained by God. This film would clearly argue that W.’s invasion of each country was approved by God if not outright encouraged by him.

There are several overlong sequences dealing with instances that point to the fact that Bush is a morally sound, sensitive, and ethical man. At one point there was a page who wanted him to mount her behind the copying machine but W. stood firm and turned the li’l sex pot down. On another occasion, he was working on a deal with a man who told him there were special things for him in the proposal, meaning a bribe of sorts. Again, Bush hurried the man out of his office and turned down the incentives. There is the famous picture of Bush holding a crying young woman who has just lost her father in 9/11 to his chest. There is the phone call he allegedly made to a national leader whose son had just died in a car crash. All these incidences are designed to portray Bush in a singular way, almost saintlike. He is Bush the Conquering Hero, the Great Christian leader who fights iniquity and whose mission has been sent straight from God.

The film is focused entirely on creating a particular image of W., one that is deeply entrenched in a myth that all great leaders must fight through. The film promises us a man of unassailable moral character who is incapable of an unethical deed. This is Bush blown up way out of proportion and it’s beyond the capabilities of even the most fastidious leaders to maintain this level of moral fortitude. Yet there is little room for a human Bush in this film. There are only those moments that accentuate the overarching sentiments that fuels the documentary which compare W. favorably with the Lord himself.

W.’s rough past is glossed over in this film as there is only a brief message of his drinking and little of the rest that went along with it. There is just enough to provide a counterpoint to the man he has become after starting off with bad directions and little spiritual sense. Whoever got to him, and despite how you feel about the man personally, it’s difficult to truthfully suggest that faith is not important to W. It’s easy for many to lay the blame for all the bad policies that have been enacted in the past 7 plus years firmly at his feet. It therefore becomes easy to mock his pretenses to faith as an inhibiting rather than as a constructive element in his presidency.

The film goes out of its way to “prove” that this country was founded by those who didn’t believe in the separation of church and state. It laments the Supreme Court decision that banned it in the early 1960's. There are numerous interviews with religious leaders such as TV evangelist James Robison who tell us how strong W.’s faith is and how this makes him a significant leader capable of making major decisions. 9/11 is cited numerous times as an example of how faith helped Bush lead during a crisis. Indeed, 9/11 is presented as an early benchmark in his presidency that allowed him to take action immediately upon receiving word of the disaster.

Overall, this film celebrates the President and his devotion to a specific cause. According to Bush it is not possible to separate a man’s faith from who he is. This film would have us believe that President George W. Bush is decisively a man of God who takes succor from the Lord Jesus Christ and makes his decisions regarding his rule based upon his faith. The film also presents the idea that these decisions are necessarily sound simply because they come from a man who believes in such a way. Christianity is cited several times as basically the only true religion for Americans and that everything else merely distracts us from what is our “natural” religious outlook. These sentiments aren’t explicitly stated but they come through between the lines. America is a Christian nation whose leader is the right man at the right time. That is how this film would have it and only time will judge how successful this presidency has been and will be viewed by those who have had their villages blasted apart by one of Bush’s wars.

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