Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's too easy to stuff Bush

As you may know by now, I can't help having a soft spot for any beleaguered minority, and not just ones that are Muslim or gay (lesbian, bisexual . . .).

Well here's another - and thanks to Norm for putting in a good word for him. He's talking about Oliver Stone's new movie about George W Bush, W, and the critical responses to it.

What Stone presents is a political downfall and his protagonist's consciousness of that fact. But this is evidently not enough for many critics caught up in a cultural moment in which Bush has come to stand as either pure incarnation of evil or a laughing stock, or both. There is no kind of wrongdoer today, or tyrant, or criminal, or enemy, who doesn't have someone to remind us of their humanity: of the fact that they came to whatever it is they did by way of impulses, temptations and weaknesses which they share with ordinary people living decent lives. The very architects and perpetrators of genocide are not denied this consideration. But a movie that shows George W. Bush in the figure of a man, though it shows him in the end in abject defeat - this doesn't fit with a certain dominant liberal consensus. It tells you some interesting things about that consensus that there is now no more hated figure than a democratically elected politician whose incumbency is about to end.

Bush does indeed have plenty to answer for: principally that he allowed a wholly necessary conflict - the much-maligned war on terror - to be morally tarnished and politically weakened by Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, by the practice of extraordinary rendition and forms of interrogation that are torture. But these facts, referred to in Oliver Stone's movie, do not explain the perception of some of the critics that W. is kind to George Bush. It isn't.

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