President Obama wants to 'go Bulworth'? What's that? (+video)(Read article summary)
Hint: It's a reference to the 1998 political movie 'Bulworth,' from Warren Beatty. Here's why Obama would be well-advised to resist the urge to model his behavior after the title character.
â€śGoing Bulworthâ€ť? Whatâ€™s that? The phrase sounds kind of ... ominous and energetic at the same time.
â€śBulworthâ€ť was a 1998 political movie starring Warren Beatty that made a bit of a splash when it was released but since has faded into obscurity. In general, it was much cleverer than Beattyâ€™s bland â€śDick Tracyâ€ť and more entertaining than his long and boring â€śReds.â€ť
Its central premise was this: Jay Billington Bulworth is a veteran California Democratic senator who left his liberal principles in the dust long ago. Now he takes money from special interests to bottle up bills in his committee.
But heâ€™s in danger of losing his seat in a reelection bid. Tired of the whole game, he starts speaking his mind, telling audiences exactly what he does and the extent of Washingtonâ€™s soft corruption.
At one point, for instance, he admits to an African-American audience that his Democratic Party is doing nothing for blacks. â€śSo what are you going to do, vote Republican?â€ť he says. â€śCome on, youâ€™re not going to vote Republican.â€ť
The movie also feature an assassination subplot and Halle Berry as Beattyâ€™s love interest, but those are immaterial to the message Mr. Obama appears to have extracted from the movie.
The Times quotes longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod on the â€śBulworthâ€ť desire, saying every politician wants some catharsis at some point, but you have to be â€śpracticalâ€ť about what you say.
Weâ€™ve got a point to add there: We think itâ€™s possible the â€śBulworthâ€ť reference is something Obama should avoid.
The movie is not exactly analogous to â€śNetwork,â€ť that famous 1976 flick in which a deranged anchor cries that he â€śjust canâ€™t take it anymore.â€ť Beattyâ€™s Bulworth character is partly a prophet, but heâ€™s also long been complicit in the system. To a certain extent, his speaking out reflects not just a disgust with the system, but disgust with himself and how he has let the system corrupt him.
GOP pundits could make a fairly decent talking point out of that, couldnâ€™t they?
As the late great Roger Ebert noted in his review of the movie, â€ś 'Bulworth' made me laugh â€“ and wince.â€ť
If Obama wants to talk about emulating fictional characters, perhaps heâ€™d be better served to mull over the prospect of â€śgoing Bartlet,â€ť after the pretty-much-saintly President Jed Bartlet of the television drama â€śThe West Wing.â€ť