Journeys With George

The George W. Bush presented in Alexandra Pelosi's entertaining-but-empty campaign documentary Journeys With George is the sort of guy who eats baloney sandwiches and Cheetos, needles cohorts and hangers-on, and freezes when he's asked a real question. He makes fun of his own awkward speechmaking, and seems thoroughly unconcerned with what his political stumping literally means. None of this is particularly revelatory, but that's not really Pelosi's fault. The president has always described himself as a regular guy, and Journeys With George shows him the way he probably wishes the American public could see him all the time: casual, relaxed, and kind of fun. Pelosi should be roughed up some, though, for what little she does with her access to the then-president-to-be and the political circus surrounding him. In 2000, Pelosi was an NBC producer/reporter assigned to Bush's press corps. To kill time, she brought her camcorder along, which paid off when her candidate fell behind the media-friendly John McCain in early primaries and decided to spend more time hanging out with "his" journalists. It was a cynical move, but an undisguised one, and even Pelosi's hard-bitten veteran colleagues admit to being charmed by Bush's plainspoken self-deprecation. Once he becomes the front-runner again, he all but disappears from Journeys, save for a few special appearances where he reveals himself to be getting stiffer and less open the closer he gets to the White House. In the absence of her title character, Pelosi interviews her seatmates, who initially answer her banal questions about journalistic life with a qualifying "Do you want me to be serious?" then proceed to provide responses every bit as jaded and purposefully reserved as Bush's. Had Pelosi noted this tendency in her voiceover narration–;or had she given any indication that she and her fellow travelers engaged in spirited debates about media bias, or what might be going on in the planes following McCain, Bill Bradley, or Al Gore–;Journeys would be an invaluable historical document. It already is, to an extent, just for the point-of-view footage of a reporter chasing history. But though Pelosi tapes one of her colleagues complimenting her for the way her disarming personality gets people to "spill their guts," no real gut-spilling finds its way into the documentary, which seems to have been edited to avoid offending any of her friends, or anyone in power. Instead, she carries on like a perky Food Network host, making light of her fatigue and complaining about the turkey sandwiches that the Bush team fed the press every day. The question her movie should have asked is why she felt compelled to eat them.

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