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by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & Death of a President & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ush lied, people died, so he himself should die: a liberal's revenge fantasy.

But does Death of a President play to that daydream? Is it porn for radicals?

British director Gabriel Range has created a fictional TV documentary, supposedly filmed in 2008, about the October 2007 assassination of President George W. Bush.

Admittedly, Range is strongly critical of Mr. Bush's War and of the attacks on civil liberties that Bush has used to perpetuate fear in America. But Death also distributes praise and blame both ways. In an opening voice-over by a Middle Eastern woman, it entraps all our prejudices. It humanizes President Bush, showing him personably delivering a speech. Anti-Bush protesters are depicted as more concerned with holding up clever slogans than in achieving any actual political change. And Bush's critics are shown engaging in specious reasoning: At one point, an anarchist brought in for questioning advocates killing the president because, if there were a war crimes tribunal, he'd probably be found guilty.

Death isn't primarily about methods of hunting for a killer (despite its occasional forays into the slick land of Law and Order and CSI). Instead, it's about the effects of a vicious murder: the swirling prejudices that, within a highly charged political atmosphere, cause a lot of leaping to false conclusions -- leaps made by conservatives and liberals alike.

Lots of conservatives have denounced Death of a President. Even Robert Reich, Kevin Costner and Hillary Clinton have denounced it. But they also haven't seen it.

And by not seeing it, they've missed the point. Death of a President doesn't advocate murdering Bush, but it does emphasize the deep anger in this country and abroad over a disastrous war and an arrogant attack on open government. At the same time, it criticizes overeager journalists, liberal activists, prejudiced investigators and a crime drama-crazed, lusting-for-entertainment public for our premature ejaculations of "justice": working ourselves up too quickly to a climax that feels good but doesn't satisfy anyone other than ourselves. Death of a President isn't feel-good porn for anyone, but it's a deadly serious warning for all of us. (Rated R)

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