"...The two-hour film offering biographies of presidential candidates Al
Gore and George W. Bush is indispensable viewing for anyone concerned about
casting the most-informed vote possible next month. The reason: research and
The producers from PBS' 'Frontline' series pull together virtually
everything we know or think we know about these two men and package it into an
engaging, easily-digestible two-hour narrative. Spend two hours with public
television tonight, and you'll know more about the candidates than you will
watching all the cable news channels every night between now and the election. I mean that."
"The choice is clear: for political junkies this is must-see public TV; for
apolitical types who deplore the rhetoric and are cynical about all the fuss,
this is the one program to watch. Even if you're sworn off TV's Sunday morning
dissections and spin doctoring, if you avoid the campaign commercials, the
ongoing coverage, and even plan to miss the debates, this one's different...
'The Choice' won't change your vote, but it will supply more informed
reasons for choosing the way you do."
"Given how low voter turnouts have sunk in our sort-of democracy, I almost
hate to recommend the latest 'Frontline' special, 'The Choice 2000'...Nothing
you'll see in this two-hour joint biography of George W. Bush and Al Gore is
likely to make you run to the polls in November with wings on your heels and
joy in your heart. ...
Given its detailed interviews with a dozen or so friends and associates of each man, as well as their wives, 'The Choice' goes beyond
... familiar media shorthand. The odd thing is, most of what you'll hear from
these sources - the childhood recollections, the political war stories, even
the wifely confidences - reinforces the image of Bush as a lightweight (and
perhaps a fool) and Gore as an opportunist (and perhaps a hyprocrite).
Only one of them, of course, will win the war in November. And 'The
Choice' just might make you grateful that one of them will lose."
"PBS' Frontline jumps into the political ring Monday with a
must-choose winner, The Choice 2000.
'In a country where the saying goes that anyone can grow up to be
president, there were once two little boys who really were born to the
role...That intriguing prologue is also an apt description of Frontline's
illuminating two-way TV bio of presidential candidates George W. Bush and
Albert Gore Jr. ...
Their stories aren't new, but side by side they offer new insights, and the
wealth of coments from people who knew-them-when are sometimes surprisingly
The Choice 2000 is a fascinating and colorful mosaic of what makes... these
two candidates run. And it does not spare the raps when they run off
"Even given all that the public knows, there's still a lot to be said for
the kind of biographical data available in 'The Choice 2000,' the new
'Frontline' film on the candidates...
The first thing to notice about this enterprise is the softening glow that
radiates from these profiles -- the inevitable by product of all the personal
detail. As much detail, at any rate, as can be packed into any two-hour
documentary made for television. ...
For all its soft tones, the film manages to provide plenty of candid
observations, culled mainly from friends and associates of the two."
"... Anyone who has been paying attention to the campaign will find 'The
Choice' familiar; anyone who hasn't is not likely to be drawn in by this
low-key superficial work.
.'The Choice' fails to do the very thing it should: connect all its
biographical data to the ideas and styles that drive the campaigns. Only at the
end does it ask, as a kind of farewell, whether Governor Bush is intellectually
weighty enough to be president and Vice President Gore exciting enough to
'The Choice 2000' is serious, but it doesn't get points just because it
avoids the candidates heartfelt opinions about peanut butter sandwiches and
breakfast cereal. Disappointing and sketchy, this 'Frontline' shows that being
serious is not the same as being substantial."
"...Frontline offers fairly useful biographies of George W. Bush on the The
Choice 2000. ...
'The Choice 2000' implies that virtually everything Gore has done in his
life outside of some recreational pot use has had an eye on political placement
(his enlisting for service in Vietnam was even exploited by his father's
senatorial campaign in the '70s). ...
Meanwhile, everything Bush has accomplished in his life can be chalked up
to his daddy's brand name, as Dubya made a practice of failing upward.
The report concludes that the next president will have to prove himself
'substantial enough, authentic enough to lead.' Choice 2000 sort of splits the
difference. Gore, it shows, is clearly the substantial one, while Bush is
posited as the more authentic of the two."
"The two-hour program is probably the most comprehensive profile of
Gore and Bush you'll find on TV, and a great primer for tomorrow's
Produced by Michael Kirk ('Waco-The Inside Story,' 'The Kevorkian
File') and reported by veteran journalist Peter J. Boyer, the program
isn't as captivating as Helen Whitney's corresponding 'Choice'
Documentary on Bill Clinton and Robert Dole four years ago.
But it is a useful personality portrait of the two main presidential
candidates-who they are, how they got that way, where they've been.
It's less informative about their records as public servants."
"The sense you get from this two-hour PBS exercise is that both
presidential candidates are good guys, good sons and good candidates
who have been preparing very differently for this moment since the
day they were born into American political families.
Though the program is extremely balanced, the final conclusions in
the preview tape given to critics seem more favorable to Gore.
The documentary concludes that Gore 'presented as formidable a
profile-the drive, the experience, the intellectual weight-as any
presidential candidate of his time. Yet he sensed that was not
enough. The question about Al Gore was could he connect.'
Of Bush, the documentary concludes: 'George Bush arrived at his
moment propelled not by a long record of public achievement or a
lifetime of great expectations. He was carried more by a sense of
his own destiny. He projected a casual certainty about the awesome
place he means to assume. By force of personality his family's
honorable name and the faith that the nation will decide that is
In other words, one candidate worked all his life to get in this
position and had to overcome his personality. The main attribute of
his opponent is his personality.
In the end, you are left wishing there was a candidate who could
combine Gore's perseverance and hard work with Bush's personal charm
"...(T)his 120-minute election special from PBS' consistently excellent
'Frontline' profiles Democratic presidential aspirant Al Gore and his
Republican counterpart George W. Bush. It finds the vice president
and the Texas governor, both sons of politicians, two very different
men: Gore the perpetual elder-pleaser, even brown-noser; Bush the
frat boy grown into crafty coalition builder who has had a lot of
help from daddy's friends.
Neither man is all hero or all cad in Michael Kirk and Peter J.
Boyer's measured but unfailingly watchable piece of work. If
anything, despite the (undeserved) PBS reputation for liberalism, it
is more revealing about and damaging to Gore, nailing him on that
tendency to biographical exaggeration and a willingness to try to
exploit personal tragedy for political gain."
"This exhaustive look at George W. Bush and Al Gore won't be viewed
by supporters of either candidate as personality puffery. Neither
comes across as a man you'll want to run to the polls and vote for on
Reported by Peter Boyer and produced by Denver-born Michael Kirk, The
Choice goes far beyond the typical media coverage that has pointed
out the differences and numerous connections between the
two-political family ties, Ivy League backgrounds.
This is a hard-nosed two hours-free from the traditional electronic
biographical studies in which assets are given equal weight with
According to The Choice, Bush and Gore both have major flaws, which
produce doubts about presidential leadership qualities.
While not doubting Bush's basic intelligence, Frontline makes an
effort to show that the Texas governor is not a particularly deep
thinker when it comes to making important decisions. One example:
his controversial 1998 decision not to commute the death sentence of
Karla Faye Tucker.
A quick note to conservatives:
Before you complain about another biased, liberal TV report, pay
attention to how Frontline treats the vice president.
Words such as opportunistic, even conniving, come to mind."
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