Costing only 15 million dollars--mere peanuts in Hollywood and congressional circles--and taking a mere 29 days to shoot, Barry Levinson's 1997 Wag the Dog, an acidic political satire, may well have pertinence for the upcoming elections.
In the original story, two weeks before re-election, the president is accused of molesting an underage girl in the Oval Office. The spin doctors, including a Hollywood producer, leap into action, fearing the charges, if made public, will competely sabotage the president's chances for another four years in the White House.
The specialist in damage control suggests creating a campaign centered around a fake war in Albania, and assembles a team of media experts who put out a steady stream of denials of non-existent emergencies. The experts rely on the assumption the American public doesn't know or even care about Albania. But they believe the public will rally to the side of the President and re-elect him. The ploy works.
The manufacture of false crises in order to hide real ones and to win elections seems to be an old and even a rather respected tactic of some administrations, including this one.
The point being that voters should be aware this administration's apparent serenity in the face of what appears to be a gathering political tsunami this November may well be based on backup plans to manufacture a crisis. After all, who can forget Rahm Emmanuel's trenchant advice not to let a perfectly good crisis go to waste? Who cares if the crisis is manufactured or not? A crisis is a crisis.
Not that we have not had enough real crises, mind you; some of which, like the Gulf oil spill, appear to have gone down a black hole as straight faced administration spokesmen assure us 75% of the oil has magically disappeared undersea and seafood sniffers assure the public the taint of oil is nowhere to be found. No olfactory nerves are disturbed by the aroma of oil. No, sir. Eat your flounder dinner in unperturbed equanimity.
But what might a Wag the Dog crisis look like?
Well, it would probably be one that calls all Americans to patriotic solidarity, with an emphasis on getting behind the President and helping him retain a solid Democrat majority which will enable him to deal with the crisis. He will need all the power of congress behind him. Of course, emergency measures will require suspension of certain rights and privileges Americans customarily enjoy, for after all, a dire crisis requires draconian measures.
Could Americans expect a big emergency about two weeks before the November elections? It certainly is not out of the question.
Maybe a nice little attack?