I never dreamed I would find myself feeling sympathy for George W. Bush, but that occurred as I watched Oliver Stone's movie, "W." Most of Bush's political critics would prefer to accuse Bush of having a dishonest nature about him while he drove America over a cliff. But Stone does "W" a favor by telling the story about a character who was never equipped intellectually or instinctively to be the leader of the free world. After watching this painful history on the big screen, it would be impossible to feel good about voting for George twice, but at least the spin, according to Stone, is that "W" was not a scoundrel.
Stone's movie is kind to "W" in that it makes a case that George spent most of his life swimming in water that was too deep for his swimming skills. The tragedy, according to Stone, is that voters never recognized that. We can tell ourselves that maybe we didn't have enough information about George that first term. We could say that the first go-around we had no way of knowing enough details about the man. We might have heard a few stories about how George had bankrupted three businesses before he was forty years old, but the details were unclear at the time of that first vote. Maybe we heard bits and pieces about "W's" black sheep background spanning from college to the National Guard years, but those facts were still emerging. And voters might have also heard that "W" had left Texas looking like a fiscal wasteland after one term as governor, but the details were still sketchy. Plausible deniability for that first-term voter was possible.
Still, historians like Stone, for generations, will be saying the obvious about that second-term Bush vote. They will remind us that by 2004, we knew the truth. September 11th was only one of the troubling events that occurred under "W's" watch. We also experienced our first recession since the time the last GOP president sat in the oval office. Bankruptcies were skyrocketing by Bush's third year in office. He had wiped out a $500 billion budget surplus. "W" had already started his march toward building a multi-trillion-dollar debt for America. He had taken his first steps to bankrupt the economy in the same way he bankrupted so many other things with that peculiar "W" touch.
By the time that second Bush vote was cast, it was clear that the Iraq war was a scam. Joblessness was up. Poverty was climbing as quickly as the number of Americans without health care coverage. The dollar was moving towards an historical bottom along with almost every other economic indicator that mapped out "W's" first term.
I'm convinced that at least a small part of Stone's movie message was, "I told you so." In fact, it almost appears to be a subtle attempt to rub the faces of voters around in the Bush mess. But the positive element of Stone's work is that it screams at voters and begs them to be honest and informed the next time they vote for a president. That alone makes "W" an important movie.