Last night my wife, Iris, and I went to see Oliver Stone's W., a biopic of George Bush. Since it was produced by an acknowledged liberal, I thought it was going to be even more of a Saturday Night Live caricaturized satire than it was. What I observed was that Stone portrayed Bush as a flawed human struggling to make something of his life. In that sense it is sympathetic as it reflects on Bush's journey from a hard drinking party boy to born again Christian to Texas governor to President of the United States.
A major theme of the film was the strained relationship between George Bush Junior and Senior. This was presented as a key factor in W's determination to enter politics, ascend to the presidency, and deal with Sadam Hussein. We see clearly Bush Jr.'s determination to finish the job with Sadam that he felt his father did not complete. No one will be surprised by the portrayal of behind-the-scenes deception and power brokering. That's old news.
Maybe that's why I, and Iris, came away from the movie feeling like there was nothing new here. We have seen this before, not as a personal story but as a story played out on political stage. For me the film was not so much a drama of Bush's human struggle to make something of himself under the looming shadow of his father as it was a disturbing reminder of 8 years of bad global politics, neglected domestic social policy, trickle-down economics, bullheaded unilateralism, premptive war, political powerbrokering, the grinding machinations of war and the dominance of right-wing religion and idealogy. This is the story that was being played out while a majority of Americans supported the war in Iraq, gave Bush high approval ratings, accepted the flag waving media's version of what was going on, and re-elected W. for a second term.
This film reminded me that it wasn't the death of 100's of thousands of soldiers and innocent Iraqi's that turned public opinion against George W. Bush Jr., who was struggling to make something of himself on the world stage and following what he believed to be a calling from God. It was the mounting loss of U.S. soldiers, the constant images of violence and death in Iraq on the media, the uncovering of lies and deceptions leading to the war, which many of us were aware of from the get-go, and now the collapse of the U.S. economy which has turned public opinion against W.
As a personal story one might see W. and be inspired by the human struggle and determination to achieve success. As a story that was played out on a national and global stage, it should be a cautionary tale of hubris, power, ideologically-driven politics, war, and deception.