Greg Palast is an investigative journalist set in the mold of I.F. Stone and George Seldes. He’s a muckraker who had written a great book titled The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He’s an American journalist who gets most of his work via England’s BBC TV and works for the Guardian, which indicates how much of a threat he is to the American political status quo. He has to go overseas to cover domestic politics. Not only is he a shrewd commentator on American politics, he’s a rock solid investigative journalist. This DVD is an hour-long documentary distilling the information he’s collected from tracking Bush for several years.
Truth be told, Palast can be a heavy handed and a little finger wagging. I’m willing to ignore those slight annoyances and remember that previous “troublemaker” investigative journalists like Seldes were often called as subtle as house fires. What Palast ultimately brings to the table is something few political contemporary commentators can boast. Raw data unearthed by legal snooping techniques; the stuff that was supposed to be hidden for time eternal. He unseals evidence that’s marked “confidential.” He has the uncanny ability to sniff out inter-company memos and find weak links in governmental paper trails. If you find his commentary a little off putting, take a step back. You’ll notice that no one is refuting the often very damning data that he’s found. They usually just shut up, run away, or call Palast a vile human being. But they don’t refute his evidence. This is an important distinction. Palast is on to something.
What Bush Family Fortunes accomplishes is a portrait of George W. Bush. It can be distilled one sentence: money and power are the fuels of politics. Palast makes many salient points, from George W. Bush’s origins as a failed oil man (four of his companies went belly up), to a failed politician (he lost his first race), to becoming governor of Texas, through his presidency. Here are a couple of the high points.
There is no other reason that in 1968, twelve days before being subject to the draft, when George W. Bush scored an extremely low—twenty-five out of a possible hundred on the entrance exam—he leapfrogged over 100,000 applicants to get a coveted spot in the National Guard. He was also more of a rarity in that he applied as a non-pilot and got training in the guard. How? His father, George Bush Sr., a congressman at the time, called in a favor. Today, there is still a $1,000 reward to anyone who can bring forth tangible evidence showing that he served duty when later stationed in Alabama. George W. Bush’s records are currently incomplete. They have been purged, hidden. No Bush has come out and brought the documents to light. Here we come across The First Rule of Bush: deny everything that isn’t positive and shred all evidence.
The people who supported George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential bid were luxuriously rewarded for their contributions. Forty-three Pioneers—people who raised at least $100,000 for the Bush candidacy, collecting record amounts of money for a presidential election—got sweet governmental appointments. Nineteen of them became ambassadors. One of the largest winners was Ken Lay, CEO of Enron. Three days after being sworn in as president, George W. Bush signed an energy bill which deregulated California’s energy, nearly bankrupting California. Enron earned billions of dollars. Don’t believe any of that hooshwash that George W. Bush didn’t know Ken Lay. Palast was able to find video in which Enron heart-felt thanks for Bush’s continued contributions, to both his family and his campaign. The Second Rule of Bush: extravagantly reward the faithful.
Florida’s elections were rigged in so many ways. It’s almost amazing that Gore scored any votes at all. Like a never-ending onion being peeled, graft occurred at the national level and trickled down to the smallest Floridian town. 179,855 votes were not counted due to Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State, calling for a premature halt of the tallying. In addition to that, 94,000 voters were put on a purge list. 95% of the people were incorrectly identified as felons by faulty data collection. (Many of the people purged were listed as felons in the future. Some had their conviction date being in 2007.) It’s hard not to feel cheated. That brings us to The Third Rule of Bush: cheat in fabulous ways. Pile it on, layer upon layer, to make it more failsafe.
To let you know that this DVD isn’t just about digging up skeletons of the past, The Fourth Rule of Bush, their perpetual motion machine, is “Money gets office. Office gets more money.” Here is where the entire enterprise gets dangerous without an end in sight. There are plenty of pictures of George Bush Sr. palling with the Saudi royal family (and remember that those who flew into the World Trade Center were fifteen Saudis, not Iraqis). What’s dangerous is that all high-level investigations against powerful Saudis have been stymied. Investigations by the joint 9/11 inquiry, when the questioned possible links to oil-rich, Bush-friendly families and corporations, have been thwarted by the same administration who has declared “a war on terror.” It doesn’t make sense until you realize that many of George W. Bush’s policies aren’t really about thwarting terror. Those policies are about oil and power. Palast unearthed White House documents generated well before the second Iraqi war. It outlined strategic plans of dividing Iraq’s resources, primarily oil. A conservative think tank, Judicial Watch, perfectly fine with legitimate reasons for America going to war, stumbled upon plans drawn up by Dick Cheney that parceled off Iraq to oil company executives. The second Iraqi war had nothing to do with military strategy. It was motivated by smash and grab economics.
In summation: if you have friends or family members who say, “Show me some evidence. We didn’t go to war for oil. We went to war for…. (fill in the blank),” this is the perfect DVD to show, often in their own handwriting, that the leaders of this country don’t have soldiers, the middle class, and the poor in mind when masterminding a new war. Powerful, still-unrefuted data is the crux of this important DVD. –Todd (www.gregpalast.com)