Bush’s “Wag The Dog” presidency

May 9, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

Further to Sarah’s post about films that help make sense of George Bush’s presidency, another film that should be required viewing for anyone trying to make sense of Bush’s America is the movie, “Wag The Dog.”  As entertainment, it’s a disappointing movie; but, as political commentary, it utterly anticipates George Bush’s presidency.

The movie, released in early 1998 (note the proximity to the beginning of Bush’s first presidential campaign), is set in modern times, and is about an American president running for re-election.  A scandal occurs immediately before the election that threatens to cripple the President’s campaign, but before the scandal can undermine the President’s chances, his political advisors realize that the best way to win re-election is to divert public attention away from the scandal by creating an even bigger story:  a war.  So, they set out to manufacture a war.

In the movie, the war isn’t real.  The President’s campaign advisors hire a Hollywood film producer to stage a ficticious war.  An actor is dressed up as an injured American war hero, to put a human face on the “war.”  An actress, complete with a prop baby, is dressed up as a refugee who is fleeing the enemy’s destruction of her village, to help garner public support for the “war.”  Willie Nelson is even hired to create a pro-America theme song for the “war.”  The film clips of the “war” are then sent to a major TV news outlet, which believes it is airing film footage of a real conflict.  The public is, thus, convinced of a threat.  The President is then shown making tough-sounding speeches about how America must fight the evil aggressors.  Predictably, the American public rallies around its “war-time president,” and sweeps him to victory.

Hmmm…manufacturing a war for political gain…demonizing a trumped-up enemy…manipulating the media (and, thus, the American people) with false intelligence…exploiting the war to make tough-sounding, pro-America speeches…all to divert public attention from the president’s mistakes…all to win re-election for a “war-time president”…could there be a more prophetic script for Bush’s presidency?

Americans should beware the precedent they have now set.  If sitting presidents can be confident that wars will help them divert public attention from their mistakes and win re-election, then America can expect future presidents to be:  (a) less diligent about avoiding mistakes in their first terms, and (b) more likely to create wars during their first terms to help guarantee themselves second terms.  Given that America is “the world’s last remaining superpower,” with the power to do enormous harm from both its president’s mistakes and wars, this is a very dangerous precedent.




Category: American Culture, Current Events, Films, Iraq, Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Watching missiles being shot from ships and aircraft goes down easily, especially with that superimposed image of Old Glory waving in the background and a beer in hand. As long as one isn't forced to look at images of dead children, smoldering homes or legless soldiers, war is great entertainment. If this is hard to swallow, take a look at the titles and covers to popular video games. http://shopper-search.cnet.com/search?qt=war+game

    It's also apparent that a large number young adults will readily step up to fight for any well-packaged "cause." As long as the other people are "bad," let's have a war!

    As Napoleon said: A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.

  2. Edgar Montrose says:

    The most interesting thing about the fact that "Wag the Dog" can be applied to the Bush 43 presidency is that it was originally thought to refer to the Clinton presidency. Bush 43, who considers himself the antithesis of Clinton, is described by the very same metaphor. The irony is delicious.

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