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The Literature Issue

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Alexandra Pelosi's latest home movie has been featured on everything from Dateline to the Today show and will soon air on HBO
December 1, 2002, 12:00am

Alexandra Pelosi’s latest home movie has been featured on everything from Dateline to the Today show and will soon air on HBO. Journeys With George is a hilarious documentary about journalistic integrity, life on the campaign trail, and Pelosi’s good buddy George W. Bush. She used a handheld camcorder to record the months she spent charming the campaigning president into letting his guard down and talkin’ trash, and nobody has ever seen him like this before. Anarchists and CEOs alike are finding themselves unable to resist watching the real GW seduce the press and goof his way into the highest office in the universe.

Whether talking with his mouth full of Cheez Doodles, rolling oranges down the aisle of the campaign airplane (the one Enron bought him), or offering romantic advice to the filmmaker, Bush is always Bush—a Texas frat-boy version of Curious George. In one scene, he sits in the back of the campaign plane clutching a non-alcoholic beer with palpable frustration and scolds Pelosi for having complained about the noisy tequila drinkers whose company he’s clearly enjoying. “These are my people,” he says, smiling. “It takes an animal to know an animal, but you’re not going to get me to admit that I’m an animal with 60 days to go before the election.” Then he chugs the shit out of his near beer.

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Of course the mainstream media is obsessed with shots like that and all but ignores the rest of the film, which is actually a poignant look at the love/hate relationship campaign-trail journalists have with the politicians they follow. When you watch the movie you can’t help but wonder how this seemingly harmless class clown managed to win over a supposedly objective press corps (maybe it’s because they’re all two-faced sycophants?). It’s inevitable questions like this that led the White House to slam Pelosi and her film, stating that she had promised all along that whatever she captured on her camcorder was for personal use. Of course, this whole argument capsizes when one views Bush himself giving the film its title and referring to it as “a lousy documentary.” Now he’s dying to see it.

In a way, Pelosi used George’s good ol’ boy tricks against him. She acted like a harmless good ol’ girl and he thought, “Fuck it, let’s haaaang.” Pelosi disarmed Bush exactly the same way he disarmed the press corps.

“If people like George Bush, they’ll come out of the movie liking him more. If they hate him they’ll come out hating him more,” says Pelosi. “But that’s not the point. I wanted to make a movie that showed how much the media pack and Bush needed each other. As cynical as they may have been going into this thing, they still asked for his autograph and let him charm the pants off them in the end.”

A profound observation, yes, but can we see that shot where he chugs the beer again?

Journeys With George hits New York for the Tribeca Film Festival, May 8-12. The soundtrack is done by this incredible singer/songwriter named Sharky Favorite and he really outdid himself on this sucker.