Monday, April 16, 2007

The Follies of a Presidential Campaign

I just got a chance to watch “Journeys with George,” Alexandra Pelosi’s engaging and revealing documentary of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. It’s shot almost entirely on a handheld camcorder by Pelosi (and yes, she is the daughter of the current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which makes Bush’s casual and convivial relationship with her and much of the press corps all the more ironic).

Have you ever seen a skate or snowboarding video? You know how they have those filler scenes where the talent is in a bus or hotel room and just nucking around? That aptly describes the majority of this doc; only the talent is a freewheeling future President. And that’s what kind of gets me. Then-Governor Bush was a bull-shitter in the most sincere sense of the word (as concerned with “Alex’s” potential relationship with a Newsweek writer as staying on message) and is actually kind of likable. But he couldn’t have come off less Presidential, and Pelosi’s footage would not have inspired confidence in the American electorate, and everyone around Bush seems to understand this (Karen Hughes’ eye rolls are palpable).

The best insight “Journeys with George” provides though is a first person account of life as a journalist on a presidential campaign. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, and fueled by coffee, alcohol, and bologna and cheese sandwiches (Bush’s favorite). It’s about being part of something really big that you have absolutely no control over, being forced to work 24 hour days for little pay and even less credit. In case you aren’t a really politico or interested in this type of thing, you’ll have to trust me that the political reporter is an incredible creature: socially awkward, alcohol dependent, and can go for days without sleep or showering. The joke of being treated as cattle was overused like a racial joke at a Duke frat party. But the real joke is that for the most part the press corps are extras in the theater that is presidential politics.

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