With Hollywood and New York head over heels over Michael Moore’s vehemently anti-Bush film Fahrenheit 911, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the country got its own motion picture about the 43rd President and his handling of the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. Enraged by the gushing treatment of the Moore production by media critics and the entertainment industry in general, Dave Bossie of Citizens United set out to tell the other side of the story. With prize-winning screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd (whose films dating back to Hanoi Hilton in 1987 deal with conservative themes and subjects most of Tinseltown won’t touch), their finished product is Celsius 41.11 (or “The Temperature At Which Your Brain Begins To Die”). On September 28, more than 300 guests defied heavy rains in Washington, D.C., to pack the Georgetown Loew’s theatre for the premiere of Celsius.
Beginning with some of Michael Moore’s outlandish comments belitting the terrorist threat (and superimposed over chilling films of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the execution of a woman by one of Saddam’s gunmen), Celsius soon assumes a documentary-style tone and tellingly spells out the reason so many on the political left and the Democratic Party hold a venomous hatred for George W. Bush: among them, the belief that he somehow stole Florida’s electoral votes and thus became President fraudulently over Al Gore; that Bush’s inaction left America vulnerable and unguarded for the 9/11 attack; that he deceived the American people about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); that the threat of Saddam and the need to depose him were far exaggerated; that the Patriotic Act was some nefarious creation of the Bush White House to stifle opposition; and that a new President is needed so he will have the confidence of world leaders that Bush lacks.
Meshing news films with “talking heads” ranging from political scientist Michael Barone to former Sen.-turned-actor Fred Thompson (R.-Tenn.), Chetwynd & Co. effectively rebut the charges of the Bush-bashers. The film notes, for example, that, contrary to Moore, every television news network save Fox News announced that polls had closed in Florida at 7:00 p.m. on Election Night 2000 and projected Gore the winner of its electoral votes. In truth, large parts of the state remained open until 8:00 p.m.–notably, in the pro-Bush panhandle, and that the early call for Gore may have depressed the turnout of Bush voters by 10,000, or much more than required to void the need for a recount. Moreover, as the film notes, despite the fact that the liberal-controlled U.S. Civil Rights Commission never turned up a single case of a minority person’s being denied the vote in Florida that year, people still speak of both intimidation of black voters and the theft of an election as if they were fact.
Similarly, Celsius rebuts the claims of Moore and others of deceptive claims of WMD in Iraq by Bush with newsreel films of prominent Democrats (including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) making the same charge against Saddam’s Iraq and some forceful clips of British Prime Minister Tony Blair appearing almost Churchillian as he addresses the House of Commons to lay out the case for Saddam’s overthrow. The film also notes that many of the Democrats who now warn of a dark side of the Patriot Act (including Kerry again) voted for the anti-terrorist measure in the first place.
All told, there is nothing really new in Celsius for informed conservatives. But the many rebuttals of oft-repeated liberal charges against President Bush are well done with newsclips nicely spliced together, and it is also effective to see some of the President’s most vehement critics skewered with their own words. The most noteworthy flaw is the almost-annoying return to “talking heads” such as Barone, and former Justice Department officials Victoria Toensing and Barbara Comstock. While all are respected in their own fields, Celsius‘s talking heads are–with the exception of Fred Thompson–largely unknown to the country at-large and introduced only with small titles at the bottom of the screen.
Chetwynd, Bossie, and their small production crew do not, of course, have the resources of, say, Steven Spielberg or Moore himself. Thus, their finished product is perhaps more suitable for a PBS documentary on television than theaters’ big screens. But given the audiences drawn to Moore’s production who take it as gospel truth, Celsius is not only worth seeing but also, in an age of in-your-face political assault, a necessary spirit raiser for conservatives that will help inform all Americans.