This two-part, three-hour hagiography, originally broadcast on PBS’s “American Experience” series, attempts to rescue and revitalize the tarnished reputation of the 41st President of the United States (and the father of the asshole currently occupying the Oval Office). It is a tall order, considering that George H.W. Bush’s reputation has not increased by any discernible measurement since he was voted out of office in 1992 by a nation that grew weary of his perceived disconnection to the problems facing the country.
To its credit, this handsomely produced film uses rarely seen home movies, family photographs and old TV news footage to provide as much depth and scope as possible. But despite the flattering pictures and the glowing comments lavished on Bush by his wife, one0-time aides and even former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, Bush nonetheless comes across as a less than admirable figure.
The film makes it clear that Bush never truly worked hard to achieve anything – financial support from his wealthy family and friends helped boost him into the post-World War II oil business and then into politics in the 1960s. He crassly embraced Goldwater-style Republicanism in 1964 despite personally abhorring the Arizona conservative’s ideology, and later allied himself as Ronald Reagan’s running mate despite an acute lack of personal admiration from both Ronald and Nancy Reagan. (Poor old Ronnie is the butt of more than a few cheap shots here.)
The film tries to repaint Bush’s single presidential term as the knockout blow to the Cold War, something which few credible historians would acknowledge, and suggest it was actually the voting public that was out of touch with Bush’s accomplishments in 1992. (Message to PBS: stop rewriting history, okay?)
Bush is not interviewed for this film, which is just as well since he was never an expert in speaking for his own defense. This offering is recommended solely for those who rued Bush’s failure to gain re-election.