For whatever reason, I had an urge to re-watch one of my favourite political documentaries last night. It's a film called "A Perfect Candidate" from 1996 and it tells the story of Oliver North's run for a seat in the Senate in 1994 representing Virginia.
It's absolutely fascinating. The directors remain silent and simply let the footage speak for itself - and holy crap does it speak volumes. It's not just about Ollie North or his strategists or Republicans vs. Democrats (the Democratic candidate is even more of a boob) - it's the marketing of politics, how you can spin anything into a positive message and a good case study of why so many voters are apathetic. To quote a voter from the film: "It's a choice between a devil and a demon. Who are you gonna vote for, the flu or the mumps? What disease do you want?"
Some of the many moments:
- The Bob Roberts clone singing about the poor and homeless (during a Republican convention): "I think a better program is - get up off of your buns!"
- The Democratic candidate Chuck Robb saying during a live debate: "I would take food from the mouths of widows and orphans if we had to [in order] to begin to solve this deficit..." Damage control!
- Former Iran hostage David Jacobsen (helping North's campaign) stating at a press conference that he puts little substance in what fellow hostage Terry Anderson says since he was still going through trauma recovery (Anderson was a hostage for 7 years and had stated that North's actions at the time likely prolonged his capture). "Give him some time....he will come around to what the rest of us believe..."
- When asked about his position on striker replacement workers, Robb states that his position has not changed - and never states what it is. "So you're opposed?" "I did not say that" "So you're in favour?" "Uh..."
- After discussing Robb's past and early golden boy career, Don Baker, a gruff cynical Washington Post reporter, relates: "over the years I've admired different politicians, but then they've always done something to lose my admiration..."
- Ollie appearing on G. Gordon Liddy's radio show
- An old woman's statements about the Confederate flag and how the "minority race seem to forget" that the Civil War was fought over States rights and not slavery which was a "minor" issue. It's not just the words, it's the tone. And she concludes: "But you can't do anything about history..."
- North's campaign manager late in the race: "getting people elected, unfortunately, has a lot to do with dividing..."
- After the vote, one of the campaign managers saying: "The negative stuff sticks and it works. I should never, ever have forgotten that. I tell ya, I've learned my lesson. The next time around I cut the [other] guy's balls off"
But the biggest jaw dropper for me, was early in the film just after the press are invited for a photo op to watch Ollie do some practice shooting. The camera is in tight on the face of a young boy (maybe 5 or 6) as an off screen voice asks him who he is voting for. His answer, of course, comes back as "Ollie North". The camera pulls back as a woman standing over the boy says "Show 'em your gun!" The little tyke is holding a rifle about as tall as he is. "What do we shoot?" she asks. "Clay pigeons and Democrats" the wee lad says...
And the woman is just beaming with pride at what she thought was just the most adorable little thing.
I've seen the film before, but it still kinda made me physically ill.