Six years into the Bush administration, are there any new depths to which the
Bush-haters can sink?
George W. Bush has been smeared by the left with every insult imaginable. He has
been called a segregationist who yearns to revive Jim Crow and compared ad nauseam
to Adolf Hitler. His detractors have accused him of being financially entwined
with Osama bin Laden. Of presiding over an American gulag. Of being a latter-day
Mussolini. Howard Dean has proffered the "interesting theory" that the Saudis
tipped off Bush in advance about 9/11. One US senator (Ted Kennedy) has called the
war in Iraq a "fraud" that Bush "cooked up in Texas" for political gain; another
(Vermont independent James Jeffords) has charged him with planning a war in Iran
as a strategy to put his brother in the White House. Cindy Sheehan has called him
a "lying bastard," a "filth spewer," an "evil maniac," a "fuehrer," and a
"terrorist" guilty of "blatant genocide" and been rewarded for her invective
with oceans of media attention.
What's left for them to say about Bush? That they want him killed?
They already say it.
On Air America Radio, talk show host Randi Rhodes recommended doing to Bush what
Michael Corleone, in "The Godfather, Part II," does to his brother. "Like Fredo,"
she said, "somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw!" then she imitated
the sound of a gunshot. In the Guardian, a leading British daily, columnist
Charlie Brooker issued a plea: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John
Hinckley Jr. where are you now that we need you?"
For the more literary Bush-hater, there is "Checkpoint," a novel by Nicholson
Baker in which two characters discuss the wisdom of shooting the 43rd president.
"I'm going to kill that bastard," one character fumes. Some Bush-hatred
masquerades as art: At Chicago's Columbia College, a curated exhibit included a
sheet of mock postage stamps bearing the words "Patriot Act" and depicting
President Bush with a gun to his head. There are even Bush-assassination fashion
statements, such as the "KILL BUSH" T-shirts that were on offer last year at
CafePress, an online retailer.
Lurid political libels have a long history in American life. The lies told about
John Adams in the campaign of 1800 were vile enough, his wife Abigail lamented,
"to ruin and corrupt the minds and morals of the best people in the world." But
has there ever been a president so hated by his enemies that they lusted openly
for his death? Or tried to gratify that lust with such political pornography?
As with other kinds of porn, even the most graphic expressions of Bush-hatred tend
to jade those who gorge on it, so that they crave ever more explicit material to
achieve the same effect.
Which brings us to "Death of a President," a new movie about the assassination of
George W. Bush.
Written and directed by British filmmaker Gabriel Range, the movie premieres this
week at the Toronto Film Festival and will air next month on Britain's Channel 4.
Shot in the style of a documentary, it opens with what looks like actual footage
of Bush being gunned down by a sniper as he leaves a Chicago hotel in October
2007. Through the use of digital special effects, the film superimposes the
president's face onto the body of the actor playing him, so that the mortally
wounded man collapsing on the screen will seem, all too vividly, to be Bush
The assassination scene from "Death of a President," a television film whose subject
is George W. Bush.
This is Bush-hatred as a snuff film. The fantasies it feeds are grotesque and
obscene; to pander to such fantasies is to rip at boundary-markers that are
indispensable to civilized society. That such a movie could not only be made but
lionized at an international film festival is a mark not of sophistication, but of
a sickness in modern life that should alarm conservatives and liberals alike.
Naturally that's not how the film's promoters see it. Noah Cowan, one of the
Toronto festival's co-directors, high-mindedly describes "Death of a President" as
"a classic cautionary tale." Well, yes, he says, Bush's assassination is
"harrowing," but what the film is really about is "how the Patriot Act,
especially, and how Bush's divisive partisanship and race-baiting has forever
I can't help wondering, though, whether some of those who see this film will take
away rather a different message. John Hinckley, in his derangement, had the idea
that shooting the president was the way to impress a movie star. After seeing
"Death of a President," the next Hinckley may be taken with a more grandiose idea:
that shooting the president is the way to become a movie star.