Watching GeorgeAugust 28, 2004
At long last, I have finally watched Journeys with George, a documentary on the 2000 presidential campaign from the view of the press pool. The reporter and now filemaker is Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Minority Leader in the House. The movie is over two years old, but somewhat hard to track down as it was only released on DVD this year and until then, only aired on HBO. Also, most local Blockbusters have unceremoniously removed any documentaries from their shelves.
The movie was fantastic and well worth the wait. As we are now deep into an entirely new presidential campaign, and on the eve of the Republican Convention, this is a particularly good time to revisit the last election. No matter how much you follow presidential politics, you will learn a great deal from this. The focus of the movie is how different the personal and the political can be. Pelosi and Bush could not be more different politically, but they develop a great relationship during the campaign. It is clear that they are both very fond of each other, despite those differences. The challenge in politics is to disagree with a person's ideas and views without questioning their patriotism or motives. I have yet to see hate accomplish much of anything.
Unfortunately, though you find yourself liking and sympathizing with nearly all of the reporters as well as the president, the political process itself fails to inspire confidence or enthusiasm. It is always a bit off-putting to see pre-made "handmade" signs waiting for pickup at an event, so the crowd can pretend to be more authentic and passionate than it is. It is also unpleasant to see various people and locations used as props for political purposes, whether they want to be or not. And lastly is the obsessive desire to deliver one message, one speech, again and again and again, with the ultimate goal being nothing greater than to have a mistake-free day.
Does any of this change the fact that big differences exist between the candidates and much is at stake in the election (then and now)? Not at all. But it is hard to believe that the modern presidential campaign is the best way to resolve these questions. I would love to see more respect for the voters and the opposition.
The one missing element from the movie was a brief comparison with the Gore plane. Each press corp is so intimately tied to the candidate they are following, and so dominated by an internal culture, that it would have been interesting to see the two groups compared.