All politics all the time 

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John Kerry and President Bush press the flesh in The Choice 2004, Frontline's two-hour dual biography of the candidates, which will air Tuesday, October 12.

If you order your copy today of Fahrenheit 9/11, released on DVD on October 5 and available via Amazon.com among other outlets, you'll have plenty of time to organize a home screening of Michael Moore's high-adrenalin indictment of the Bush administration's mendacity before the somber Uncovered: the War on Iraq (see review, page 24) is released on October 19. Moore's film picks a broader fight that includes Congress (almost no one actually read the Patriot Act before voting for it) and delves into the Bush family's financial connections to the House of Saud, whereas Robert Greenwald's film is a focused look at the manipulation of the media and public on the way to Iraq. If watching either film makes you wonder how a man like Colin Powell who, unlike Cheney and Rumsfeld doesn't seem to thrive on feeling superior to his plebian electorate, sleeps at night, visit Salon.com for "The State Department's Extreme Makeover." The opinion piece, by an anonymous "veteran Foreign Service officer currently serving as a State Department official," predicts that Powell would resign during a second Bush term, clearing the way for neo-con ideologues to plan future "pre-emptive" invasions.

The Uncovered DVD will also include A Soldier's Pay, a film by Three Kings director David O. Russell. Three Kings, starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, was the 1999 Gulf War sleeper hit that managed to be both highly entertaining and politically pointed. A Soldier's Pay was slated to screen with this fall's Three Kings theatrical re-release (promoting the upcoming special edition DVD) but Warner Bros. chickened out.

While there's something to be said for watching these documentaries in a theater with fellow citizens - and it's encouraging to see so many sober political films released theatrically, including Bush's Brain and The Corporation - in the comfort of your own home, friends and family can follow up on former CIA analyst Ray McGovern's tip in Uncovered that the Project for a New American Century outlines the neo-cons' agenda. Chaired by arch-conservative William Kristol (who, incidentally, agreed that Kerry outshone Bush in the first presidential debate), PNAC is "dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle," and that, in essence, we need to elect leaders who are willing to use that military strength pre-emptively. If you've been thinking that logic will prevail in the Middle East, you might want to visit http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqmiddleeast.htm for two July 2004 reports that reaffirm that Iraq was trying to buy enriched uranium from Niger, and that the 9/11 Commission report actually bolsters claims of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. You think you're living on the same planet ...

With a presidential debate and a vice presidential debate under your belt, and a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 in your wonky little hand, let's say you still haven't had your fill. This Friday evening the most free-form of the formulaic presidential debates will air: the "town hall meeting" broadcast live at 8 p.m. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The candidates will answer questions from an audience comprised of undecided voters. In the third debate, scheduled for 8 p.m., October 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe, the candidates will roll up their shirtsleeves, stand on a stump and hash it out Lincoln/Douglass style. Just kidding. We all know that would give John Kerry an advantage. CBS News Chief Correspondent and Face the Nation Moderator Bob Schieffer will conduct a civilized discussion of domestic policy.

If the format of the debates leaves you hungry for a little more color and background, on Tuesday, October 12 at 9 p.m., Frontline will air The Choice 2004, a two-hour profile of Bush and Kerry accompanied by supplemental interviews and materials at www.frontline.org. The program will be rebroadcast on October 14 and for hardcore fence-sitters on November 1. Another new Frontline program, produced in collaboration with the Washington Post, examines the state of the U.S. military, which some experts contend is over-extended and demoralized. Rumsfeld's War, scheduled for broadcast at 9 p.m. Tuesday, October 26, speaks with current and former military officers about Rumsfeld's attempt to increasingly exert civilian control and make the military a tool of American diplomacy. Sounds like the PCAN website will be useful support material for this program, too.

And, finally (but certainly not exhaustively), visit pbs.org, for a listing of election-related programming through November, as well as on-line discussions and background materials. And let's keep our fingers crossed that politics' new-found popularity lasts beyond November 2, whatever the outcome.

By Elaine Wolff


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