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The Manchurian candidate

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Politics is a dirty business, and no one knows that better than Karl Rove, according to the documentary Bush's Brain, playing one night only, Thurs., Oct. 21, at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

Contrary to White House spin, the man behind Dubya is not God, but Bush's key political adviser, Rove, lurking like Forrest Gump over Bush's shoulder. Rove's name cropped up in a recent New York Times article about the bulge beneath President Bush's jacket at the Miami debate that some speculated was a transmitter feeding the wisdom of Rove to his remote-control president.

Wayne Slater and James Moore, co-authors of the eponymous book on which the Bush's Brain documentary is based, provide the evidence for Rove's multidecade rise. From high school master debater to a power-hungry college Republican, Rove then morphed into the Bush family's in-house spin doctor and, later, Dubya's campaign attack dog.

A panel of witticism-chomping, good ol' Texas newspaper folk and politicians who have come up against Rove's candidates all attest to the man's tenacious, hell-bent determination to win at any cost, including running smear campaigns against opponents like Bush's 2000 presidential primary challenger Sen. John McCain.

In more recent days, Grand Old Party animal Rove's behind-the-scenes mix-mastering has painted decorated war hero, triple amputee and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland as a virtual al-Qaeda operative, and used the war in Iraq to champion Dubya as the second coming.

Bush's Brain follows a familiar Fahrenheit 9/11 pattern, including a wrenching, but tacked-on conclusion centered on a Marine who died on his fourth day in Iraq. The filmmakers drive home a similar Moore-ian point about the real people who suffer when politicians power trip for fun and profit.

Joseph Mealey and Michael Shoob's Bush's Brain is a remarkably depressing affair. No matter what side of the political fence you're on, and whether you buy -- or can follow -- the arguments of culpability laid out in the often convoluted documentary, the film evokes a tremendous systemic breakdown in which ethics have flown out the window and politics has become some conceptual chess game with no connection to the myriad people's lives it touches.Bush's Brain screens Thurs., Oct. 21, 9:30 p.m. at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. $8. A u&A with co-director Michael Shoob follows the screening.

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