Over at the Nation, Jeremy Pikser, who co-wrote the Warren Beatty film Bulworth offers his reaction to the report that President Obama has considered “going Bulworth” according to the New York Times. Pikser’s article is titled: “I knew J. Billington Bulworth, and you, Mr. President, are no Bulworth.”
For those who haven’t seen the comic satire, it involves a liberal politician who, distraught over having sold out his values, pays a hitman to rub him out. With nothing left to lose, the politician then uses the time he has remaining to start saying what he really thinks, with no regard for the outrage or political consequences of doing so.
According to the Times:
Yet Mr. Obama also expresses exasperation. In private, he has talked longingly of “going Bulworth,” a reference to a little-remembered 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a senator who risked it all to say what he really thought. While Mr. Beatty’s character had neither the power nor the platform of a president, the metaphor highlights Mr. Obama’s desire to be liberated from what he sees as the hindrances on him.
“Probably every president says that from time to time,” said David Axelrod, another longtime adviser who has heard Mr. Obama’s movie-inspired aspiration. “It’s probably cathartic just to say it. But the reality is that while you want to be truthful, you want to be straightforward, you also want to be practical about whatever you’re saying.”
Pikser offers some reaction to the way the film is characterized and offers some insight into the ending of the film, which Beatty made different than what the original script called for. He then discuses the parallels between Obama and Bulworth:
In the opening scenes of the film, Bulworth makes a deal he doesn’t intend to keep with the insurance industry. He accepts a $10 million life insurance policy as a bribe to stop a bill they don’t want. But he’s planning to have himself killed, passing the money to his daughter, before he can make good on his part of the deal.
Obama made his own deal with the insurance companies. Only he lived to keep it. Before he was nominated he is reported to have said that, like Bulworth, he favored single-payer health insurance. We know how that movie turned out.
Whether legally forcing people to buy health insurance based on profit, not health, is actually good for anyone but the insurance industry remains to be seen, but what has been clear from the start is that Obama has always understood what it means to be president of the United States. He has always known that the job description simply does not allow for taking on any of the major industries such as “health” care, banks or oil. Or failing to keep the world order of Western military and economic hegemony in place. It requires, in fact, the opposite. Job one.
Bulworth, and, the film suggests, all intelligent people involved in politics in every form, know this. What Bulworth, the character, does that is so outrageous and so funny is not that he deplores this state of affairs or offers a visionary alternative but simply that he says it out loud. This, to me, is the only thing Obama could sensibly mean by longing to “go Bulworth.”
But he never will say any of it out loud. No one has to worry about that. He’s a politician working a system that’s not broken, but fixed. He is no Bulworth.
Read the whole thing here.