bush the hero of 9/11

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    Bush-backed feature film of 9/11 casts him as scourge of 'tinhorn terrorists'
    By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
    22 June 2003

    According to one version of history, President George Bush was so slow to react to the momentous attacks of 11 September 2001 that he continued reading to a group of primary school children in Florida even after being informed of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Centre.

    Then, after making an anodyne remark about finding "the folks who committed this act", he was whisked off in Air Force One, first to Shreveport, Louisiana and thence to an underground bunker in Nebraska, where he was hastily coached in the art of responding to the crisis in an appropriately presidential manner.

    That, however, is not the George Bush who emerges from a new television docudrama due to air on cable in time for the second anniversary of the attacks this September.

    In this version, the President is all swagger and seize-the-moment bravado. "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me," he says. "I'll be at home. Waiting for the bastard." "But Mr President ..." stammers his Secret Service chief. "Try 'Commander-in-Chief'," Mr Bush corrects him, "whose present command is, 'Take the President home!'"

    If this scenario sounds like wishful thinking cooked up by the Republican National Committee, it probably is, given that the film, entitled DC 9/11, was produced and written by a direct associate of the President's, Lionel Chetwynd, in close co-operation with Mr Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove.

    From the administration's point of view, it is arguably, the most successful attempt to date to recruit Hollywood to help the White House in its war on terrorism - or, in this case, its war on the Democratic presidential nominee in the November 2004 election.

    Mr Chetwynd is not only a well-known conservative in Hollywood circles, with credits spanning political dramas and biblical stories. He also sits on the White House Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

    Mr Rove, meanwhile, has a special eye for propaganda - not only did he conceive of Mr Bush's recent post-Iraq Top Gun-style landing on an aircraft carrier, he was also the one who explained away the President's peregrinations on 11 September by claiming, less than convincingly, that Air Force One itself was under direct threat of attack.

    Although nobody has seen the finished product, the script of DC 9/11 was leaked to the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, which described its portrayal of "a nearly infallible, heroic president with little or no dissension in his ranks and a penchant for delivering articulate, stirring, off-the-cuff address to his colleagues".

    At one point, according to the script, he tells Democratic Party leaders: "I won't be seeking a declaration of war. With a shadowy enemy, specificity makes that problematic." That sounds awfully sophisticated for the malapropism-prone George Dubya.

    Amazingly, Mr Chetwynd denies his film is propaganda in any form. He insists that everything in the film comes from the public record - either published accounts or information gleaned from his own interviews with the President, the White House chief of staff Andy Card, Mr Rove and others. "This isn't propaganda," he told the The Washington Post last week. "It's a straightforward docudrama. I would hope what's presented is a fully coloured and nuanced picture of a human being in a difficult situation."

    The fact that it paints its subject in the best possible light at every turn certainly can't hurt the Bush cause, however. It is part of an emerging pattern whereby the anniversaries of 11 September are exploited as political advertisements for the Bush administration. This year it will be the airing of DC 9/11; next year, with just two months to go before the next presidential election, it will be the Republican National Convention in New York.
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