More presidential truthiness

Both a film and a book blur fiction and fact on President Bush

by Emily Garber

Sure, George W. Bush is the president, but even for a man in his privileged public position, he has been a rather popular face in the media this fall.

His unauthorized autobiography found its way onto bookshelves Oct. 3. and two weeks later, his fictitious assassination aired on television in the United Kingdom.

Now more than any time in his complicated life we can evaluate his illustrious career and begin to understand the man who changed (for better or worse) the United States of America.

The president’s “biographizing” is as funny as it is true

By Emily Garber
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When President George W. Bush approached Vice President Dick Cheney with an idea for an autobiography, Cheney thought it was against the President’s, and the country’s, best interest.

“I advised the president that this was not the appropriate time to release a book containing highly classified information which may compromise our nation’s security,” Cheney said.

“I warned that the release of a work so revealing could result in another terrorist attack on our country, one that would be many thousands of times worse than 9/11.”

Regardless, the Commander in Chief went through with it, relying on the skills of trusted journalists Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of “The Onion,” and Peter Hilleren, a public radio producer, to put his epic tale into words. The editor of one of the nation’s longest running jokes and another man who has never even met the President were indeed the best men for the job.

“Destined for Destiny: The Unauthorized Autobiography of George W. Bush”
Authors: Scott Dikkers and Peter Hilleren
Publisher: Scribner Press
Pages: 166
Price: $19.95

Joke’s up.

Though Bush hasn’t written an autobiography (yet), this hardcover spoof comes astonishingly close to what one day might appear on the bestseller list, down to on-the-ranch pictures and the metallic award on the cover for “Super Special Biographizing,” Dikkers and Hilleren seem to know the President better than he knows himself.

Dikkers and Hilleren offer us stories of the President’s life, from his difficult beginnings as the son of oil millionaires to his dedication to campus activism with an organization for the Yale Bulldog’s rights and through to the heart-wrenching tale of Sept. 11, 2001, what President Bush readily declares his “finest hour.”

The authors are the creators of the Weekly Radio Address, a periodic parody of the President’s speeches. Some critics, on both sides of the political spectrum, might bash the book for being a cheap and strewn-out version of the “Bushisms” of which the world has already gotten its fill.

But this book is dead on. While some actions that take place in the book are far-fetched and impossible (such as when Jesus personally helped Bush in his race for the 19th Congressional District of Texas), it’s the thought processes behind these actions that could have easily taken place and what ultimately make the reality behind the book terrifying to Bush’s opposition.

Bush disputes his own birthday, criticizing the law that stated he was not a citizen until he was born “the second time Ö I believe that God’s law supersedes man’s law. And God’s law states that life begins when I say.” While there’s humor here, there very well could be truth.

The cleverest of these tales is when the President finds Jesus. He began to attend a

Bible study in order to avoid reading the entire book, admitting, “I find the experts, let them tell me what I need to know, then take action. It is easier for me to make decisions when I am not burdened by irrelevant facts that complicate my thinking.” This obvious allusion to his means of running the country is hidden away in a seemingly innocent chapter.

“Destined for Destiny” might seem to be another cheap shot to those who support our

Commander in Chief. For those critical of the current administration, what ultimately sticks is that the eventual non-ghostwritten autobiography could very well ring with the same tone.

“Death of a President” imagines the assassination of Bush

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Director Gabriel Range and More4 Television of the United Kingdom know that whether George W. Bush warms your heart or curdles your blood, the announcement of his assassination will likely grab your attention.

So, that’s what they set out to do in their made-for-TV fake documentary, “Death of a President:” In the not too distant future, Oct. 19th, 2007, they killed the 43rd President of the United States of America.

The film has incited polarizing reactions for its hyper-realistic depiction of the assassination. It was accomplished by CGI mapping the president’s face on an actor’s body, the same technique that allowed Forest Gump to shake hands with John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1994. But, in this case, the portrayal of a living president’s death seems to have been dubbed too tasteless by some, including the White House.

“Death of a President”
DIRECTED BY: Gabriel Range
SHOWING AT: Oak St. Cinema, 309 Oak St. S.E.

Yet, contrary to what even Bush’s strongest detractors might think, Range’s greatest problems occur once the president is out of the picture. When the search for a suspect begins, you realize that it has only taken about thirty minutes for all of the hype that’s been buzzing around this controversial fakeumentary to fade into a mutable hum of yesterday’s headlines.

The film posits the fictionalized circumstances – both cause and effect – of the President’s assassination after giving a speech at an economics convention outside of which a particularly boisterous crowd of protestors have gathered.

It follows the familiar documentary approach by alternating between mock interviews and fabricated archival footage. But it mixes a dramatic who-dun-it thriller to create a malformed cross between a mild Michael Moore and Lazenby’s Bond – a little force-fed and tugged around for no real reason.

Its cast of interviewees ranges from suspects and their wives, to “Former Heads of Presidential Protection Detail” and a self parodying former FBI forensic investigator who bears an eerie resemblance to Dwight from “The Office.” Some of the performances in the interviews are believable, some are deplorable and some are utterly superfluous (so what if the President’s former speech composer thought he was particularly charming on the night of the assassination?).

The second third of the film is spent probing the suspects’ lives, focusing on a young protestor, an Iraq veteran and two Muslim-Americans, one from Syria and another connected to al-Qaida.

As the investigation undergoes the obligatory unraveling created by assuming this murder-mystery form, prejudices are addressed that might remind some of last year’s multi-culti conscious Oscar winner “Crash.” The United State’s occupation of Iraq is also given critical examination, staking its claim on the same “why are we even there” argument allegorically addressed in last year’s timely Gulf War pic, “Jarhead.”

Its most daring critique is the scathing, complex indictment of the United States government for having pursued a dishonest war in Iraq. It delves into the government’s post-9/11

relationship with its public and the incommodious task it has to satiate a prejudicial citizenship that it is responsible for creating.

Details would be too revealing, but it is doubtlessly due to these issues that “Death of a President,” at most an incendiary, kitsch film, received the Critics’ Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

As taboo as the portrayed assassination of a living president is, “Death of a President’s” exploration into the construction and obstinate preservation of prejudices is the film’s most shocking achievement.