BUSH FAMILY FORTUNES
Directed by Greg Palast
Greg Palast is an award-winning journalist that works for the BBC and the UK’s Guardian and Observer newspapers. He has also written the New York Times Best Seller The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His hour-long documentary covers many familiar stories about the alleged shenanigans of President George W. Bush and his family: W’s National Guard service, the 2000 election, ties to corporate leaders and the Carlyle Group, intelligence about Iraq and more. While Michael Moore covered a lot of this material previously in Fahrenheit 9/11, he did get his information about the 2000 election from Palast’s reporting, footage of which has already appeared in Unprecedented.
Palast uses a mixture of both trustworthy and unreliable sources, which neutralizes the credibility of his reporting. He speaks with General Jay Garner, the first man running the coalition authority in Iraq, who was fired after he pushed for quick elections, which was against the Bush administration’s policy. While Garner brings legitimacy to the documentary, it is neutralized when Palast speaks with Major Bill Burkett, Bush's Air Guard General's assistant. Burkett talks about the trashing of Bush’s Guard records, but since he was recently discredited for giving forged documents to Dan Rather and CBS, he can’t be trusted.
On the DVD, there is a section that allows the viewer to look at documents Palast uses. Some Florida documents appear legitimate such as the ones from the governor dealing with ex-felons, but the felon scrub list looks like anyone could have made it up using Excel and there’s no one on camera to verify it. However, it is pretty obvious that some form of high jinks took place in Florida. To substantiate these claims, there’s an interview with Willie Steen, a military man for four years. He was turned away because he was told he appeared on the felon list. My problem is I have trouble trusting all media at this point, so how do I know he’s really Willie Steen? Palast should have brought Steen to confront the people that turned him away. In Palast’s defense, there’s a great scene where Clayton Roberts, Katherine Harris' elections division chief, runs off and calls security when confronted with questions about the suspicious nature of certain aspects of the Florida election. If there’s no truth to the accusations, why not stay and answer the questions?
Palast is very straightforward and fair in his presentation and doesn’t resort to demonization and vitriol like some of Bush’s proponents and cheerleaders. He presents the story as he sees it and it is left up to the viewer to further corroborate or debunk his reporting, which is what needs to be done with any information received from the media. Like everything else critical of President Bush, the documentary reinforces the beliefs of the anti-Bush faithful but will turn off Bush supporters who refuse to listen to any negative comments about him regardless of the veracity of the claims.