In this morning’s Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby has a fascinating piece on the rising Bush Derangement Syndrome and its latest expression, the British planned film depicting his assassination and the consequences. It’s a good read, and that’s not surprising — Jacoby is kind of the Globe’s own Mitt Romney — the token non-liberal to deflect criticism of one side completely and utterly “owning” the institution.
Anyway, Jacoby cites some of the more egregious examples of BDS of the last few years, including the death threats from some people who really, really ought to know better.
But I’m not so sure this “Death Of A President” will end up falling into that category.
Given what is known about it so far, and the people behind it, it’s probably a safe assumption, but I consider myself a minor scholar of American history, and have read a lot of fiction that revolves around assassinations. I think it’s a rich area to explore, and a well-done film about it could be very valuable.
I think it was in a David Eddings novel where there was a plot to kill an emperor. One of the heroes discovered it, and mentioned that “when you kill a nation’s leader, the people tend to go crazy for a while.” Even if the leader is inept or corrupt or just plain evil, it’s still a hell of a shock to a country.
Sometimes, when the leader is killed, there is a huge purge and bloodbath as all those associated with the former regime are also executed. Sometimes, it serves as a catharsis for the people, as in the case of Nicolae Ceauşescu of Romania.
But in the United States, we don’t have any such history. When our sitting presidents die, either from natural causes or assassination, it is a tremendous shock to our nation. We tend to react with fury at the assassin, if that is the cause.
But the longer-term consequence is that the president’s agendas and plans tend to get passed and carried out with tremendous haste and popular support. It seems that we, as a country, tend to feel the need to honor our fallen commander-in-chief by carrying out what we perceive as their final wishes. It happened with Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. (It also led to an aircraft carrier being named in their honor, but that’s just another historical oddity.)
In Bush’s case, it would most likely have an even stronger effect than the Kennedy assassination. It would hardly trigger a violent revolution, for two reasons that spring to mind: 1) Bush would be succeeded by Dick Cheney; and 2) Bush’s supporters tend to be very pro-2nd-Amendment, while his detractors are more into gun control, meaning that those who would be pushing this revolution would most likely be outgunned by several orders of magnitude.
The film brings up a valid point: the open hatred (for whatever reasons) for Bush is greater than any president I can remember, and might even surpass that of Nixon at the height of Watergate or Johnson during Viet Nam. There have already been at least one known attempt to assassinate him (the grenade that turned out to be a dud tossed at him in the Republic of Georgia), and there is no doubting that there are enough crazies out there to try it.
If the film is done responsibly, it could be a fascinating piece of work and I’d probably watch it We’ll just have to wait and see.
And if the producers decide to add to the versimilitude of the film, they can always superimpose the face of Howard Dean, Al Franken, Kos, or (my personal favorite) Cindy Sheehan on top of the assassin’s face, just like they’re putting Bush’s face on the actor who gets shot.