What Are You Cut Out For, Junior?

I’m with Jonathan Hawley and Pete Suderman: Oliver Stone’s new Bush biopic looks surprisingly good:

The casting is interesting; any film that has James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton, and Rob Corddry in it will be eclectic, to say the least. But they’ve got some good people; Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell should be excellent.

I understand the commercial and political reasons for making the film, but I must say I’ve never found Bush, the person, very interesting. I’ve found his advisors fascinating; The Rise of the Vulcans would be a gripping read even if the events it documents were of no consequence. But Bush just seems like a screwup who landed where he is by a mixture of serendipity and nepotism. If the ’94 Republican wave hadn’t blown Ann Richards out, if Gingrich hadn’t screwed up the budget face-off and thus ruined his chances of a run in 2000, if McCain hadn’t faltered in South Carolina, if the 2000 election hadn’t gone to SCOTUS – if it weren’t for dumb luck, Bush wouldn’t even be worth a mention.

What I would be interested in seeing is a Bill Clinton biopic, because Clinton as a person is fascinating. Whatever you think of his politics, even his conduct during the primaries this year, he’s an unbelievably intelligent and almost preternaturally talented political operator, and one who grew up with nothing to help him get where he wanted to go. And yet – again, regardless of your view of his politics – he was deeply flawed in many respects. What’s most jarring for me is the degree to which his greatest gifts – his personal connection, his deep empathy, his distance from the Washington milieu – led directly to some of his most grievous mistakes – trusting Dick Morris, not getting his first term agenda in the right order, his sexual misadventures. He’s been caricatured as a womanizer after the Lewinsky scandal, of course, but his dealings with Congress and his flirtations with Morris are much more interesting to me. Stone is too interested in the salacious to do a good job with the subject, but there’s got to be some good material there for a more substantive filmmaker.

3 thoughts on “What Are You Cut Out For, Junior?

  1. It’s interesting that you don’t find W. interesting, but you find his advisers interesting. I’d like to add a twist in order to elicit some kind of response. The question, for me, has always been: Why have such, granted, interesting and fascinating political minds WANTED to work with W.? What is it about W. that is so impressive that he can attract the loyalty of several intelligent individuals. For this reason, I find your disinterest in W. very odd. Anyone who can attract such intelligent minds and convince them to join his side has got to be given some credit. Of course, this doesn’t endorse W.. Rather, it simply posits that as a politician who’s just damn good at winning….this has to make him one of the most underrated politicians in quite some time. So, I find W. interesting if only because of his ability to coordinate and gather a very strong politically minded team who, to this day, continues to defy the campaign odds.

  2. It’s interesting that you don’t find W. interesting, but you find his advisers interesting. I’d like to add a twist in order to elicit some kind of response. The question, for me, has always been: Why have such, granted, interesting and fascinating political minds WANTED to work with W.? What is it about W. that is so impressive that he can attract the loyalty of several intelligent individuals. For this reason, I find your disinterest in W. very odd. Anyone who can attract such intelligent minds and convince them to join his side has got to be given some credit. Of course, this doesn’t endorse W.. Rather, it simply posits that as a politician who’s just damn good at winning….this has to make him one of the most underrated politicians in quite some time. So, I find W. interesting if only because of his ability to coordinate and gather a very strong politically minded team who, to this day, continues to defy the campaign odds.

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