The deep, dark secret of politics:
They’re all just people
BUSH: Is this movie gonna be called “George and Alexandra”; is that the name of this movie?
PELOSI: I don’t know. What do you think it should be called?
BUSH: Uhh… I don’t know — “Geourneys with George?” Pretty good one, huh? You can spell it with a G?
PELOSI: G, yeah! (laughs)
By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
CONSIDER this to be a last kind word before the madness begins. OK, so it’s already started. But it’s never too late for a kind word.
Joe Biden’s been hanging out here a year or two. I’m not sure John McCain ever left in 2000. We’ve seen Christopher Dodd, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Tom Vilsack. I haven’t actually seen Bill Richardson, but he spoke to one of my colleagues on the phone, so I know he’s thinking about us. Mitt Romney was here last Wednesday. Then Barack Obama on Friday and Saturday, and the other media darling, Hillary Clinton, Monday.
Rudy Giuliani today, ex-Gov. Romney back on Thursday, and some guy named Duncan Hunter Friday.
With 18 contenders between the two major parties, I know I’m forgetting somebody. Oh, yeah — John Edwards was down in Charleston the other day, and his experience was a good example of the madness I’m talking about.
He came to talk about health care. The State’s reporter actually wrote about that. But the traveling press corps only wanted to know about a couple of kids he had hired to blog for him. Really. Not that it was in any way important, but that was The Story of the Day, as decreed by 24-hour cable TV “news” and the always-on-message partisan blogs.
Brace yourself for a lot of this. Gather your strength. Sit back, relax. Rent a movie, and watch it. Specifically, this one: “Journeys with George,” a documentary about George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign for president, made by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.
No, really, it’s good. I was worried, too. I had ordered it from Netflix in late November, thinking it was something I ought to see. Then I let it sit on top of the TV until last week.
Bush according to Pelosi, I thought each night. Too much like work. Tired. Watch “House” episode for third time instead.
I broke down last week, at the behest of one of my daughters. Two minutes into it, I called another daughter who was upstairs, told her she had to see this, and started it over. It was that good.
What was so good about it? Well, certainly not the production values. It was shot with a camcorder by Alexandra Pelosi as a home movie of her year as an NBC producer, traveling with the Texas governor as he sought the presidency. You’ve seen YouTube? Like that, only longer.
What was good about it was that everybody in the film came across as a human being. If you don’t find that surprising, you need a quick unreality check: Put this down, watch a couple of hours of TV “news,” then visit a few of the more popular blogs.
See what I mean?
In this movie, the president-to-be is neither the warmongering demon nor the stalwart defender of all that’s right and true.
He’s just this guy. The joshing, never-serious, somewhat condescending uncle to the young woman who keeps sticking a camcorder in his face for reasons that aren’t entirely apparent. A little on the goofy side, but no idiot.
And Ms. Pelosi is neither the Spawn of the Liberal She-Devil nor what you think of when you say “NBC Nightly News” either. She’s not the former because, brace yourself, Nancy Pelosi is actually a human being, too. She’s not the latter partly because she’s a producer, not the on-air “talent” you’re used to. Producers are the ones behind the scenes who get actual work done — arranging travel, lining up interviews, soothing hurt feelings — while the ones you know are checking their hair. Think Andie MacDowell to Bill Murray’s weatherman in “Groundhog Day.”
She comes across as what she apparently is — a bright, friendly young woman who is very tired of getting up at 6 a.m., herded to airplanes and fed turkey sandwiches all day.
The two of them are practically friends. When she gets interested in a smiley guy from Newsweek (who later turns out to be a cad), Gov. Bush teases her, then offers semiserious advice. When she reports a little too accurately on her fellow media types and they all refuse to speak to her, George steps in to make peace.
In other words, they act like people. Likable people, no matter what you think of their politics. So do the others on the bus, including some familiar faces. Nobody took the camcorder girl seriously, so they forgot to put their masks on. Sure, the candidate is deliberately trying to charm the press. What will surprise his detractors is that he’s so good at it. Karl Rove still comes across as a creep, but that’s because it’s real life.
This brilliant little ditty of a film reveals a deep, dark secret: Like Soylent Green, politics is actually made of people. Real people, whom you are not required by law either to hate or to love. You just hang with them, and see them as they are in the tedium of daily coexistence. People, living their lives. Not symbols, not abstractions, not caricatures.
I ordered the movie because Columbia attorney Jim Leventis, a perfectly normal guy who belongs to my Rotary Club, is Alexandra Pelosi’s godfather. He describes the speaker of the House as “just a wonderful mom and just a wonderful friend.” Really.
You should see it if you can, and remember the lesson it teaches. It might ground you enough to preserve your faith in people over the next 12 months.
I’ll try to remember it, too, as those 18 candidates posture for the extremists in their respective parties. If I forget, remind me.