The Good: At 70 minutes long, it's so poorly put together, first grade students could find flaws.
The Bad: Insults viewers intelligence, Full of logical fallacies, Obvious bias, Poor production values
The Basics: In its attempt to paint Bush as a strong, religious leader, George W. Bush: Faith In The White House opens up so many logical holes and proves the opposite instead.
[Note: This review was originally written before the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election . . . back when it still mattered. Enjoy!]
Halfway through the public viewing I attended of George W. Bush: Faith In The White House, the person next to me wrote on the pad that I was taking notes on "If Stalin or Mussolini were alive today, this company would be making their propaganda films too." And she hit it right on the mark, I feel. Billed as an alternative to Fahrenheit 9/11 (reviewed here!), George W. Bush: Faith In The White House is a witless attempt by pawns of the reactionary agenda to make viewers believe that a vote against George W. Bush is a vote against god and religion.
Because it sets itself up as an alternative to Fahrenheit 9/11, George W. Bush: Faith In The White House opens itself up to comparisons to the Michael Moore film. In an interview on NPR, the director of this movie claimed that he could have made Fahrenheit 9/11 for far less money than Michael Moore did and George W. Bush: Faith In The White House illustrates his point perfectly: it looks like it was made quite cheaply. In fact, the visual impact of the movie is the same as that of a training video one might get for a retail job and the production values of this piece are almost identical.
What is this movie? This is a film that attempts to show that George W. Bush is a man of faith (not a tool of the Christian Coalition) and that his faith in Jesus Christ makes him a strong man and the only right leader in these tumultuous times. It is a mixed up biography that glosses over his youthful problems and describes how he found god and became president and benefited all sorts of religiously (read: Christian) -based organizations.
And that's it. Without going into my feelings about Fahrenheit 9/11, there are two hugely important differences between George W. Bush: Faith In The White House and Fahrenheit 9/11. In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore has incredible impact because HE does not make allegations, he simply replays what Bush and his top aides said and puts forth the evidence we now have to disprove their misstatements and outright lies. That is to say, Moore doesn't damn the Bush Administration; he lets the Bush Administration damn themselves. By contrast, George W. Bush: Faith In The White House is a group of people (many of them the most reactionary evangelical Christian leaders today) spouting how great and genuine George W. Bush is.
In short, this movie is crap.
I make that statement without any political bias and here's why: this movie is a bunch of crap. First of all, the opposition (those who disagree that George W. Bush is either a man of faith or more than just a tool pushing the agenda of the Christian Coalition) has no say in this movie. Not a single one of the people who have publicly opposed Bush and his faith-based agendas agreed to appear in the movie. Yet, quotes from Al Franken and Richard Gere are used in the movie as the voice of the opposition. The problem is how they are presented. Not a single opposition voice over is done without sounding sniveling or sarcastic. The film immediately illustrates its bias by insulting the opposition in the way it presents their material.
Moreover, this is a factually problematic movie that is only supportable by those who agree with the Bush-style politics. Bush rules using innuendo and threat without having a firm grasp on facts or reality. Similarly, George W. Bush: Faith In The White House mentions incidents that are bizarre and random without ever being specific enough to be truly credible. For example, the film cites an incident (which I had never heard about) where George W. Bush was approached by a campaign worker while working on his father's presidential campaign. The movie applauds Bush for resisting the temptations of the advance and credits his character and religion (an obvious attempt to contrast with Clinton). The problem is the incident comes across as entirely without credibility as it involves no names, times or other specifics. Instead, it seems like a made up incident used to prove a point. Similarly, the movie shows an incident where a senator solicited Bush for a program and Bush rejected him the moment that the senator tried to show how it would benefit Bush personally. Again, the incident was left too vague to seem real or credible.
Moreover, the Bush administration has done everything possible to disprove the credibility of such an incident. Could any informed viewer truly believe that Bush would reject a proposal because it benefited him when his administration has made so many closed door deals with companies that directly benefit George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?
But the thrust of the movie is that George W. Bush is a man of faith and that faith has made him strong. The producers of the film are also hoping it has made the viewer pliable and stupid. Why do I say that? The producers are very careful to arrange incidents out of order so as to make George W. Bush appear as good as possible. For example, they cleverly gloss over his drinking until the age of 40 (completely neglecting his use of CRACK COCAINE in the 1970s!) and then tell how he found faith. The problem is, anyone taking notes will instantly find the hypocrisy of their argument. Why? The movie is honest about dates and it says that George W. Bush quit drinking on his 40th birthday, in July 1986. However, George W. Bush met with Billy Graham and became a man of strong Christian faith in 1985.
See the problem? This film wants us desperately to believe that George W. Bush's evangelical Christianity saved him from a life of debauchery and drinking and made him into a strong, steadfast, righteous leader, but instead, it shows the opposite. Even Bush's suddenly strong Christian faith could not stop him from drinking. He kept drinking for at least a year after he found God again!
And that, then, begs the question: what's to stop Bush from relapsing? If God wasn't enough to make Bush stop abusing alcohol, what's to keep Bush from starting up drinking again when the job gets tough?
Moreover, George W. Bush: Faith In The White House is filled with a lot of other very problematic logical fallacies. For example, the movie insists that because George W. Bush is a man of faith, he is trustworthy. One need not go back so far to the Inquisition, but rather to the recent scandals in the Catholic Church to be able to render that argument invalid. The truth is, faith does not equal trustworthiness. Religious leaders and congregants can be exceptionally corrupt, especially in Christianity where God offers absolution and forgiveness. Pardon the possibility of sounding jaded, but when a faith offers the opportunity to clean your moral slate on a weekly basis, it lowers the chance of moral accountability.
This movie phrases various hot-button issues in purely Conservative terms, claiming the September 11th attacks as "war on our soil" and rejecting "casual dress Fridays" as an attempt to illustrate that Bush is farther right than the moderate Republicans.
In the end, George W. Bush is a self-serving political propaganda piece that neglects the most serious issues of the George W. Bush biography in favor of attempting to mindlessly convince those who vote entirely on their religion that there is no choice but George W. Bush in this upcoming election. In short, this piece attempts - desperately - to paint the vote in November as a choice for Bush and God or Anyone Else and Godlessness and hate. And we are not stupid enough to fall for that.
For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
March Of The Penguins
"Anatomy Of A Homicide"
Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?
For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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