Bush’s Brain — a documentary about puppetmeister Karl Rove

If, like me, you’ve wondered who Karl Rove is, where he came from and why some say he’s the most powerful man in America, rent or buy the movie Bush’s Brain.

I won’t give it a full review here; suffice it to say it’s a documentary on Rove and how he operates, based on a book of the same title by Joseph Mealey and Michael Paradies Shoob, both prominent Texas journalists.

Before seeing the film I never realized just how down and dirty Rove plays. He believes in only one thing in life, and that is winning. Now, that’s okay; winning is important, and it certainly beats losing. The fascinating thing is exactly what he’s willing to do to win. In the name of winning, he has virtually no concern for the life and reputation of the opponent. There can only be total victory, at whatever cost to the loser.

One of his favorite tactics is the coordinated whisper campaign. He used this against Ann Richards when Bush ran against her for governeor in Texas. Although she is a grandmother, toward the end of the campaign word began to spread that she was a lesbian. Suddenly people were calling the talk radio stations throughout the state, all raising the same question about her sexuality.

Nowhere is Rove more famous for this tactic than in the attempt (successful) to smear John McCain during the 2000 primaries. It all started after McCain beat Bush in New Hampshire and was about to move on to South Carolina. This was seen as absolutely pivotal, and sure enough, phone calls started coming in to the right-wing talk-show hosts, this time raising an evil rumor that McCain had a black daughter he fathered with a prostitute. To call this “evil” doesn’t quite cut it. McCain had adopted an impoverished black daughter (I believe she was from India but am not certain) in an act of extraordianry humanity and decency, and Rove was twisting it into racist nonsense — except a lot of people didn’t know it was nonsense. Then came the whispers about McCain’s wife being an active drug addict, another very dirty trick (she was, like Kitty Dukakis, an addict at one time, and has always been open about her orderal and her road to recovery). And he went on to do even worse to McCain; so much worse, I can’t imagine how they got him to be their keynote speaker at the upcoming GOP convention.

The movie interviews a broad range of politicians and journalists, each of whom has a horror story to tell about Karl’s ruthlessness. (The interview with Max Cleland was especially poignant.) Some of the stories blew me away, especially Rove’s ability to use slander and innuendo to turn things around at the 11th hour. Sometimes it’s worse than slander.

And that’s what makes me so worried now. I simply cannot believe that as November 2 approaches Rove will refrain from implementing once again his time-honored and proven tactic of take-no-prisoners character assassination. Especially if the race remains tight. I’m worried that Rove will strike at the most critical time, as he always does. There are no rules with Rove, no restrictions. It’s full-frontal assault and morality be damned. Bush, of course, gives it his full blessing. Such are the ways of our great religious president, the resident White House saint.

Bush’s Brain also reminded me of how good a campaigner Bush can be, despite his lack of depth or ideas. Rove and Huighes have trained Bush to remain ruthlessly “on message,” and no matter what he’s asked, he knows how to keep spewing out his message while ignoring the question. So I get worried when everyone says how easy it will be for Kerry to win in the debates. Personally, I think Kerry will win, but Bush won’t go down easily, and if he just comes out alive and in one piece he’ll be seen by many as the winner.

Bush’s Brain is gripping, disturbing and loaded with good information. It isn’t anywhere close to Fahrenheit 9/11 in terms of polish and excitement; it’s basically a lot of interviews strung together. It’s intense, but it’s not entertaining the way Moore is. Still, it’s a great primer oo who Rove is and how lethal he can be.

I pray to God the Kerry camp has a copy; I suspect that the better Kerry does in the polls, the more violent will be Rove’s assault at the most critical moment. And Rove doesn’t lose. So please, Mr. Kerry, watch out.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

check out this month’s Vanity Fair for a great article on the democrat spin machine manned by Shrum. it’s got an intriguing take on how the republicans and democrats have begun to stylize their campaigns to read like entertainment and psychobabble.

July 27, 2004 @ 7:39 pm | Comment

Sounds scary. Too bad Vanity Fair doesn’t have an online edition.

July 27, 2004 @ 9:30 pm | Comment

I know. And it’s too long, or I would dare type it all out. Actually, on my blog I might type out about two or three grafs I thought were interesting.

July 27, 2004 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

I believe that Rove was a student of Lee Atwater, but unlike Atwater, he has no conscience. Atwater did have a deathbed conversion / apology.

The adopted daughter is Bangladeshi. The rumor was that she was African-American (well, Americans are stupid and if it’s dark skin, it’s gotta be Black!)

Don’t forget the rumors he spread about Cindy McCain were beyond drug addiction – he alluded that she was also insane, mentally unstable.

Rove is a good whisper campaigner, but there’s always someone better out there – something that Google hasn’t figured out either.

July 27, 2004 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

Rove is a good whisper campaigner, but there’s always someone better out there – something that Google hasn’t figured out either.

Can you elaborate?

The movie does mention that he was an Atwater protege, and it touches on Atwater’s famous deathbed conversion/repentance. None of that girly stuff for Karl Rove, I’m afraid.

July 27, 2004 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

We’ll have to wait till he’s about to kick it.

July 28, 2004 @ 3:41 am | Comment

The Google reference was my opportunity to slam Google.

Altavista was the best search engine out there, then Google came along. I suspect that there’s another pair of Eastern Europeans making the next best search engine out there.

Just like there’s a slimier, better whisperer than Rove out there.

July 28, 2004 @ 9:12 am | Comment

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