A stylized pseudo-biography based loosely on Bill Clinton's race for the White House, used to study the line between right and wrong, and what means can be justified by the end. I have no way to guess how close to reality this movie is. The broad strokes fit what has come out in the popular press ever since he started running.
The movie really centers around his campaign manager Henry Burton, played by Adrian Lester. Jack Stanton, John Travolta's role, is closer to a supporting one and he plays it that way and doesn't try to steal his scenes. Basically, Burton is used as an outside viewer of a candidate who has surrounded himself with friends who sometimes can't force themselves to confront the hard questions.
That's the setup for the slippery slope. We learn early in the movie that Stanton is not above lying to the voters to catch their heart. Not really a surprise, just an affirmation of the way the political world works. We see the Governor try to avoid a negative campaign against his opponent for as long as possible, and when he does succumb he still sticks to the issues and points out his opponent's political inconsistencies rather than digging for dirt.
But eventually they stumble across personal dirt and the decision of what to do with it looms. Leak it to the media? Extort the man and force him to step down? Present the evidence and let him decide what he wants to do?
And what is the ultimate goal? The Presidency? The good one can do once one attains the Presidency? In either case, where does one draw the line on which tactics are acceptable in order to attain the Presidency? Does it matter who you're running against? In other words, if you're running against someone for whom the Presidency is just an ego trip and who won't use the position to try to advance the country, are you justified in pulling out the stops to bring him down?
The ethical line there is wide and fuzzy. Politicians have long lived with the idea that little white lies to the electorate are an acceptable means to garner votes. And usually with pointing out their opponent's faults rather than their own virtues. And so on down the slippery slope.
A thought-provoking movie. On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, rates Matinee.
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