Davis Guggenheim, Sycophant

Look, I personally love Barack Obama and all, but there are numerous failures and dark sides to his presidency. Anyone who hasn’t been troubled by the ways he has continued and expanded Bush’s authoritarian policies of unchecked executive powers and limited civil liberteis, or by the ways he failed to fight for a single payer health care system, or by the ways he rewarded and shielded the culprits behind 2008′s economic collapse by installing their cronies in his administration, or by the ways he shielded Bush era war criminals from prosecution, or by his feckless inability to rein in the debt by repealing the Bush tax cuts, or by his capitulations on energy and drilling policies, or by his pious religious affirmations aimed at proving to the country’s theocrats that he is sufficiently devout to pass the Constitutional religious test for office, is either a right winger or too much of a Democratic party hack for my blood.

The man is not perfect. He runs to the right before the conservatives ever take a position, giving them the ability to associate his center-right policies as radical leftist by their connection to him (the falsely presumed radical leftist Alinskyite) and then to stake out further right positions themselves and call those positions “center-right” by comparison to the presumed Trotskyite/actual center-right positioned President!

I could go on examining his limitations as a leader and as a policy setter.

Now, I understand that campaign ads don’t have any requirements such that they must paint a balanced picture. It’s up to the other side to inform everyone of your negatives and you have every right to accentuate the positives. So it makes sense that the 17 minute video the President’s campaign is releasing tomorrow is expected to be more about hagiography than history.

But its director, Davis Guggenheim, is, by trade, not a hagiographer but the Academy Award winning documentarian who made An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for “Superman”. He has pretensions to journalistic seriousness to back up his explicit insistence to Piers Morgan, earlier in their interview excerpted from below, that he is “not a sycophant”. Yet by the end of his interview he wound up giving an appallingly uncritical and fawning assessment of Obama to a rightly contemptuous Morgan. Check it out:

The video cut off Guggenheim’s doozy of a final reply to Morgan’s sarcasm at the end of the above clip, wherein he says that getting Obama reelected is the best thing he could do for his children and his country.

Honestly, given the Republican competition, this is probably true. But if that fact is going to change the way you present information so that it never reflects badly on the guy you’re so desperate to see stay in office, then admit you’re not doing documentary work but a propaganda piece—even if you swear that “it’s only this one time!” Or, better idea, just don’t go talk to the media expecting them to treat your compromised journalistic standards uncritically. I mean, they might. This is the mainstream media we’re talking about here. It is prone to an amazing amount of stenography for the powerful. But still, you shouldn’t expect it in principle at least. And happily for the public, every now and then you don’t get it.

Below the fold is an older documentary segment Guggenheim made about Obama’s relationship with his mother and his early career:

Your Thoughts?

  • http://songe.me Alex Songe

    Yeah, I was never under the impression that this was a documentary. I saw the trailer and I’d love to watch this film, but I’m not going to depend on it as an objective evaluation of the President. You don’t lose any points by saying it’s a political piece, not a documentary.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Right, it’s his denials that he’s abandoning objecitivty that make his obsequiousness towards the President so especially obnoxious.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    I’m pretty sure doing a documentary about the funder of said documentary is pretty dubious anyway.

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    I think it’s a tough situation for the Obama team. If they want to win an honest campaign that will win, they just need to focus on smearing Republicans. If they want to avoid running a negative campaign and focus on actually selling Obama himself, they have to lie through their teeth.

    I’m sure they’ll do both, just as Romney will.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Waiting for Superman is just about universally considered a “documentary” assault on public education, serving the pecuniary interests of for-profit school operators, homeschool text publishers, etc, and frontally opposing teachers’ and the public interest.

    So of course its producer has his head up Obama’s butt.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

    I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic. Are you saying that his opposition to public education is a quintessential Obama viewpoint that he would only endorse as an Obama sycophant or are you being sarcastic and saying he diverges from Obama in that film?