Oliver Stone's Bush Derangement Syndrome
By Matthew Vadum
Editor’s note: The following is the ninth installment of a series of articles Frontpage is running in response to Oliver Stone’s neo-Communist documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.” Frontpage will be reviewing each episode of the Stone series, exposing the leftist hateful lies about America and setting the record straight. Below is a review of Part 9 of the series.
George W. Bush schemed and plotted to become virtually an American emperor long before becoming president in 2001, according to neo-Communist movie-maker Oliver Stone.
Working with various shady so-called neoconservatives, Bush clawed his way into the Oval Office so he could impose his will on the world. The 43rd president used every unethical means at his disposal to achieve his unsavory objectives, Stone’s audience is told in the ninth episode of his multi-part hateful assault on modern American history, Untold History of the United States.
Moreover, as Stone sees it, the U.S. cheated to win the Cold War. George H.W. Bush cheated by using unfair campaign tactics against Michael Dukakis. George W. Bush and the Supreme Court cheated Al Gore out of the presidency. Bill Clinton, literally a serial sexual cheater, cheated Americans out of a “peace dividend.”
The episode is chock full of the kind of sweeping statements, outright lies, sleazy tabloid-worthy innuendos, and sloppy research we’ve come to expect from the pretentious movie director who has always shown a callous disdain for the facts.
Just about the only thing that is accurate in the episode is its name, “Bush and Clinton: Peace Squandered — the New World Order,” which correctly describes the episode’s theme. Like his popular conspiracy film, JFK, the episode is largely fiction.
Let’s examine the story-lines of the episode in order.
Contrary to pro-American propaganda, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush didn’t contribute to ending the Cold War, according to Stone.
Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev, a Communist who was fighting to preserve Soviet Communism, gets all the credit. Gushing, Stone declares that around the time the Berlin Wall fell, “the world was a hopeful, even joyous place. Protracted and bloody wars were ending in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and between Iran and Iraq.”
In this magical time of rainbows and unicorns, Gorbachev took it upon himself to ask the member states of the United Nations “for joint action to eliminate the threat to the world’s environment.” At the end of 1988, Gorbachev demanded that weapons be banned in outer space and that Third World exploitation be ended. “He called for a UN-brokered ceasefire in Afghanistan and offered a joint effort to put an end to an era of wars, the terror of hunger and poverty and the tactic of political terrorism,” Stone boasts.
Echoing the New York Times, which hailed Gorbachev as a visionary world leader, Stone ecstatically praises the Communist’s proposals as “breathtaking, risky, bold, naive, heroic.”
George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, was a vicious, dimwitted blue-blood. Like the media before him, the director distorts the 41st president’s much ridiculed reference to the “vision thing.” He maintains it meant the president “distrusted individualistic thinking.”
This is nonsense, of course. Bush was ridiculing the idea that a presidential candidate had to have a distinct vision, as conservatives had argued in his day. Bush thought he could win by convincing the public he was a competent manager, without laying out a comprehensive platform. The fact that he was elected suggests he was on to something.
Stone accuses Bush of race-baiting during the 1988 campaign. “Like Nixon, Bush appealed to voters’ racism and fears of crime.” He “openly played the race card with a campaign ad” about the furloughed black murderer Willie Horton, who went on a crime spree after being released in Massachusetts under then-governor Michael Dukakis.
It’s difficult to believe the ad that painted Dukakis as soft on crime was racist. The Willie Horton issue was first raised earlier in the election cycle by then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) in his run for the Democratic nomination against Dukakis.
Ensconced in the Oval Office, Bush and his advisers didn’t fight fair against the dear Soviet leader, Stone complains.
“They all agreed reaching out to Gorbachev would weaken Western resolve where Gorbachev was calling for eliminating tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, a move, an offer most Europeans applauded,” Stone says. “The United States countered that the Soviet Union should remove 325,000 troops in exchange for a U.S. cut of 30,000.”
Most Americans would consider Bush’s offer an example of driving a hard bargain against the nation’s sworn enemy, but Stone regards it as some kind of betrayal.
The U.S. should have entered into a grand alliance with the Soviet Union, according to the Kremlin-adoring director. “The laurels of victory and a true peace would be squandered … in Bush’s lack of foresight and vision in acquiring a true ally in the Soviet Union.”
Stone implies that because Bush refused to give Gorbachev political cover to help him deal with hardliners at home, the Soviet strongman was placed under house arrest in mid-1991 by Communist officials.
Bush’s refusal to appease Gorbachev, who was struggling to reform the USSR while maintaining a socialist system, led to the Soviet leader’s downfall. “Condemned and rejected, on Christmas Day 1991 Gorbachev, one of the most visionary and transformative leaders of the twentieth century resigned in a form of disgrace,” Stone says somberly.
As U.S. president, Bill Clinton was an improvement in certain ways over Bush 41, Stone emphasizes. The neo-Communist film-maker recycles the popular left-wing lie that when his presidency came to a close, Clinton “left behind a temporarily prosperous country with a huge surplus.”
But Clinton was a warmonger just like his predecessor, the director claims. Although the United States faced “no clear threat from hostile nations,” the Clinton administration was “even more tough-minded on defense than their Republican adversaries.” Tough-guy Clinton, of course, repeatedly failed to give the order to shoot when Osama bin Laden was in U.S. cross-hairs.
Clinton squandered the much vaunted “peace dividend” that America supposedly had coming because it no longer had to spend great sums to defend itself from the world’s other superpower:
In January 2000 his administration added $115 million to the Pentagon’s projected five-year defense plan. It continued spending profusely on missile defense. Clinton also refused to sign the Ottawa land mines treaty and oversaw a significant increase in U.S. arms sales to almost 60 percent of the world’s market by 1997.
According to Stone’s fuzzy math, a mere $115 million increase in missile defense spending constitutes a spending spree. The Department of Defense’s actual budget in fiscal 2000 was more than a quarter trillion dollars.
The Bushes Stole the Election
Stone rehashes the tired old smear that the Bush family stole the 2000 presidential election by somehow rigging the vote in all-important Florida. Regurgitating what has become an article of faith on
the Left, Stone declares the election “the most scandalous in U.S. history.”
To support his claim of Republican corruption, Stone literally invents facts. After correctly stating that Democrat Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the national popular vote by 540,000 votes, he insinuates that racial discrimination prevented Gore from winning Florida.
According to Stone, Gore lost Florida “when more than 10 percent of African-Americans were disqualified by an antiquated state voting system overseen by a Florida governor, Jeb Bush, George’s younger brother, and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Bush’s state campaign manager.”
Stone doesn’t say how he knows more than one tenth of black voters were removed from Florida voter rolls, a conspiracy theory that emerged from the fever swamps of the Left during the recount. Could these disqualified African-Americans have been ineligible felons? We don’t know because the film-maker doesn’t bother to explain.
It is fanciful for Stone to assert that Florida’s voting system was run by Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris. As anyone who lived through the 36-day recount saga in 2000 knows, the governor and secretary of state don’t exert much control over polling places. Those are administered at the local level by turf-conscious, stubborn county officials.
Stone’s conspiracy-theorizing is even more explicit in the companion book, co-written with Peter Kuznick, a real-life associate professor of history at American University. (Given that Kuznick is contributing to a book that ought to be subtitled Anti-Americanism For Dummies, he can’t be overly concerned about being taken seriously.)
Poor Vice President Al Gore was doomed from the outset, according to the book:
“The deck was stacked against Gore … Partial recounts cut Bush’s lead below 600 votes. Fearing that the full state recount would sink him, Bush deployed family consigliere James Baker, his father’s campaign manager and secretary of state, to use every available court challenge to block the recount.”
Long a believer that the U.S. invaded Iraq for oil, Stone breaks out a violin and plays his corporate conspiracy/war for oil leitmotif. Some campaign staffers flew down to Florida for the recount on corporate jets lent to the campaign by Bush’s “friend” Ken Lay of Enron infamy and Dick “Cheney’s friends at Halliburton.” Stone doesn’t mention the thousands of Democratic lawyers who rushed down to Florida in November 2000 to advocate for Gore.
Gore “demanded” a “full state recount” and the Bush campaign fought that demand, Stone writes. (Kindle version of book, Location 10971 of 22715)
It’s a bald-faced lie.
Gore’s strategy was to harvest extra votes in Democratic strongholds alone. He sought manual recounts in the four heavily Democratic counties of Volusia, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Florida’s state supreme court futilely ordered a statewide recount on its own, acting so late in the game that it probably couldn’t have been done properly without missing federal deadlines.
In the documentary, the director glibly attributes Bush’s eventual win to a corrupt high court in Washington:
“Behooving the shenanigans of a banana republic, the U.S. Supreme Court, without precedent, surprisingly intervened in the Florida election process and voted 5 to 4 to stop a recount, thus handing Bush the election. The majority of these justices had been appointed in administrations in which Bush’s father was either president or vice president. If it had happened in another country it would have been denounced as a coup by the United States.”
In fact, the high court voted 5 to 4 in Bush v. Gore to halt the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court after it had already decided in a lopsided 7 to 2 vote that the vote-counting processes in place were so fundamentally unfair that they violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. On that equal-treatment issue liberal justices Stephen Breyer and David Souter concurred with the majority.
Of course it is true, as Stone notes, that the high court was dominated by justices appointed when George W. Bush’s father was president or vice president. But that by itself proves nothing. After the elder Bush served 12 years in the Executive Branch, it isn’t surprising that courts would abound with his appointees or the appointees of the two-term president he served under.
Years later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia denied suggestions that the high court had injected itself into the 2000 election. “Nobody on the court liked to wade into that controversy,” Scalia said. “But there was certainly no way that we could turn down the petition for certiorari. What are you going to say? The case isn’t important enough?”
In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court merely produced the same election result that would have been reached had it not interrupted the Florida recount. And after much drama, the system devised by the Framers of the Constitution worked.
Eventually even the mainstream media –gasp!– agreed that Bush was the legitimate victor.
A year after the election, an exhaustive investigation by a large consortium of mainstream media outlets concluded that “George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.” (New York Times, Nov. 12, 2001)
Stone ignores the inconvenient fact that had the U.S. Supreme Court not acted, other political institutions were prepared to step in. (He also overlooks the hordes of left-wing activists who pressured electors pledged to Bush to become “faithless” electors by voting against him in the Electoral College.)
To prevent Gore from stealing the election in Florida, the Republican-controlled state legislature had been ready to approve Bush’s slate of presidential electors over Gore’s, handing the election to Bush. Similarly, if the election had been thrown to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, Bush would also have been elected.
But Stone, like the entire Left, can simply never accept that Gore, whom he describes as “a forward-looking, experienced man who repeatedly warned of a world ecological disaster looming in a changing climate that needed controlling,” could ever lose to a supposed rube from tumble weed-covered Texas.
Stone fantasizes that Gore was compassionate and as such might have been a truly great president. It is “compassion for the other that in the end has distinguished our greatest leaders, be it Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or on other fronts, people such as Martin Luther King.”
The America-hater suggests that if Clinton’s veep hadn’t supposedly been so unfairly roughed up by a mocking media, the community of nations might have come together in a giant group hug after 9/11:
“Had Al Gore been in office, instead of being derided by the media as a know-it-all who annoyed them might he not have emotionally connected to a world that had hardened in its hatred of U.S. policies? Might he not have acted in humbler fashion and pursued the terrorists with the traditional structures of diplomacy, intelligence services, and firm police action? Would not the same results have been achieved without making new enemies that could be perceived as martyrs to a young generation of emerging radicals?”
We’ll never know for sure.
Bush the Younger, the Mad Tyrant
Stone characterizes George W. Bush, forever an illegitimate president in his eyes, as a decadent tyrant. After taking office and “befitting a Roman emperor,” the 43rd president was “surrounded by an entourage of true believers.”
Although President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton worked at diplomacy and coalition-building in the international area, the younger, twisted Bush had psychological issues with his father that guided his actions in the Oval Office, Stone claims. “In his sense of defiance towards his father, [Bush 43] came to resemble more a degenerate heir to an admired Roman emperor.”
As invented facts spring forth from his fertile imagination, Stone pontificates that, “In Bush’s mind both his father and the sexually undisciplined Bill Clinton were weak. Ronald Reagan was his idea of strength and a higher father.”
The cheap shots at Bush continue. Unable to take in the scope of history without the lens of cinema, the director relies on a box office blockbuster to advance his lunatic theories. It was ironic, he says, that in early 2001, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was named best film of 2000. The movie, which enjoyed “worldwide success celebrated Rome’s harsh militarism depicting a perverted leadership that spelled the fall of the Roman Empire,” really seemed to be telling the story of the ongoing collapse of increasingly militaristic, imperialistic America, Stone infers.
We are then shown a dramatic clip from Gladiator, in which the conflicted son Commodus, having just learned he will not become emperor, murders his father Marcus Aurelius to seize his throne. “I would butcher the whole world if you would only love me!” a distraught Commodus cries out as he squeezes the life out of the elderly emperor.
Having metaphorically killed his father, or something, Bush 43 soon turned into a monster the likes of which the American body politic had never seen before — in Stone’s morbid fantasy world. Aligned with devious “neoconservatives,” Bush set about doing pro-American things that the conservative movement had long supported.
Under Bush, the litany of supposed horrors committed included asserting U.S. sovereignty by withdrawing from the International Criminal Court Treaty, rejecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, repudiating the worse-than-useless Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming, disavowing the so-called Middle East peace process, and suspending negotiations with Stalinist North Korea on its long-range missile program.
Even worse, Bush dared to make an effort to provide American energy security, Stone pouts. “His administration was marinated in oil, [Vice President Dick] Cheney putting together a highly secretive energy task force that laid out plans to control the world’s supply.”
Stone inadvertently reveals that he must not have watched television news for a decade, making the ridiculous claim that “in general the media asked few questions about these abrupt reversals in policy.”
9/11 As An Opportunity
Stone blames Bush for failing to prevent the Islamofascist terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The threats made by Osama bin Laden were known by authorities but Stone claims the president “could not focus his attention as he spent more time away from Washington than any recent president at his sequestered Crawford, Texas ranch chopping wood.”
In his rush to condemn Bush, Stone skips over the fact that because of the long delay in resolving the election, well into 2001 many top security posts in the administration went unfilled. The fact is also left out that the Democrat-erected “Gorelick wall” prevented intelligence agencies from piecing together data gathered about the impending attacks.
Following the deadly attacks in which roughly 3,000 Americans were killed, Bush fanned the flames of public hysteria, Stone alleges.
After 9/11 in America:
“an enormous Pandora’s box of dark energy and pent-up fear of chaos reminiscent of the late nineteenth-century French Revolution all came together in self-righteousness that would spawn a crusade against not only bin Laden and his followers but all evil in the world itself.”
This makes no sense. Although in his rhetoric Bush identified a three-country “Axis of Evil” and attacked Iraq, one of those nations, the Global War on Terror he initiated never actually aimed at eradicating all evil in the world. This campaign was narrowly directed at state sponsors of terrorism.
Besides, Stone’s historical analogy is a head-scratcher. There was no French Revolution near the end of the nineteenth century. Civilized people the world over-stared in disbelief at the actual French Revolution, an ugly, blood-drenched eruption of sociopolitical tumult that raged at the very end of the eighteenth century (i.e. 1789 to 1799) and whose reverberations continue echoing in the present day.
Strangely, Stone is referring to the Paris Commune of 1871, which only a few have called the Fourth French Revolution. We know Stone is pointing to the events of 1871 because during the relevant part of his narration he displays a period print of Communards fighting at the barricades.
The problem is that the Occupy Wall Street-like uprising of anarchists and communists lasted only two months and didn’t spread beyond the French capital. Although it inspired generations of Marxists, the Paris Commune is more of an interesting historical footnote than a real revolution.
In any event, as a neo-Communist, Stone would have to applaud the Paris Commune. As V.I. Lenin noted, Karl Marx himself applauded the uprising at the time, expressing hope that at some point revolutionaries would “smash” France’s “bureaucratic-military machine.”
Because this error-prone, America-hating director can’t be bothered to explain his argument properly, it’s not clear what he is getting at. Perhaps the significance of the reference was lost on Stone’s cutting room floor.
Stone insists that in the aftermath of 9/11, when nations acted with empathy towards the U.S., Bush squandered an opportunity to reach out to the rest of the world.
But Stone can’t even get country names right. “Vladimir Putin of the USSR was one of the first to offer help,” Stone says. Putin’s offer came in 2001, when he was president of Russia, a decade after the Soviet Union disbanded.
Putin, by the way, was the right kind of strongman to rescue Russia, says the director. Putin “brought Russia back from the brink by reinstating a strong tyrannical centralizing power in the old Russian style.” Of course in reality Russia is still on the brink, its population plummeting amidst a perpetually stagnant economy, but Stone never lets facts get in the way of dictator-worship.
Bush 43 had planned his drive for world domination long before becoming president, according to Stone:
“As he embarked on one of the country’s most ambitious periods of nation-building, George Bush actually did more in his eight years in office than any other president to bury the World War Two myth of American power moderated by fairness. In hindsight it was his capacity to conceal his reactionary intentions that years later still confronts and shocks many Americans from the pre-2001 era.”
There you have it. The ups and downs of American life for the past 12 years may be directly traced to a sinister plot hatched in smoke-filled back rooms in Kennebunkport and Austin.
So says Hollywood’s most prolific neo-Communist conspiracy theorist.
Related articles on Stone’s series:
1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.
2. David Horowitz’s analysis of the meaning behind the warm reception of Stone’s Kremlin propaganda.
3. Matthew Vadum’s review of Stone’s first episode.
4. Daniel Flynn’s review of “Roosevelt, Truman and Wallace,” the second episode.
5. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.
6. Bruce Thornton’s review of “The Cold War: 1945-1950,” the 4th episode.
7. Matthew Vadum’s review of “The 50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb & The Third World,” the 5th episode.
8. Larry Schweikart’s review of “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” the 6th episode.
9. Larry Schweikart’s review of “Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune,” the 7th episode.
10. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “Reagan, Gorbachev & the Third World: Revival of Fortune,” the 8th episode.