The New York Times
Borat Sagdiyev, the Kazakh television reporter with the bushy mustache and cheap gray suit, showed up at the White House this week with an invitation for the man he calls the “mighty U.S. warlord.”
He wanted to invite “Premier George Walker Bush,” along with “other American dignitaries” like Mel Gibson and O.J. Simpson, to a screening of his new documentary about his anti-Semitic, misogynistic, scatological trek across America, followed by a cocktail party/summit meeting, no doubt featuring Kazakh-mopolitans made with fermented horse urine.
“We’ll make discussion of cooperation between the two countries at Hooters,” Borat told a befuddled White House guard.
Borat, of course, is Sacha Baron Cohen, the successor to Peter Sellers, a wildly original and brainy Cambridge grad and observant Jew from a distinguished British family. His HBO characters, the rapper Ali G, the fashion reporter Bruno, and Borat, collide with reality, exposing prejudice and puncturing pomposity.
The real Kazakhstan dictator was honored by President Bush at a state dinner this week. Nursultan Nazarbayev may have a corrupt and authoritarian regime where political opponents have been known to die very, very suddenly, but, hey, he’s got oil and he’s an ally in the war on terror. Respec’, as Ali G would say.
So Mr. Cohen popped up as well, loping around D.C. to promote his new movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” The satirist held a news conference in front of the Kazakh Embassy — as real officials inside fumed — to proclaim that any protestations that Kazakhstan treats women equally or tolerates all religions are “disgusting fabrications” by “evil nitwits” in rival Uzbekistan.
Mr. Cohen is a genius at turning reality into farce, taking lowbrow humor to high places, but he has met his match in W.
With the publication of parts of the classified intelligence report showing that the Bush administration has expanded the terrorist threat, as well as the books “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward, “Hubris” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, and “Fiasco” by Thomas Ricks, all detailing the bumbling and infighting of Bush officials on Iraq, it’s a tossup as to where we can find the most ludicrous, offensive and juvenile behavior — in the new Borat movie or the Bush White House. Let’s compare and contrast:
At a Southern society dinner, an etiquette coach teaches Borat how to excuse himself to go to the bathroom. But when he returns to the table with a toilet doggie bag, no one laughs.
W. and Karl Rove “shared an array of fart jokes,” Mr. Woodward writes. A White House aide put a toy that made a flatulence sound under Karl’s chair for the senior staff meeting on July 7. When they learned of the terror attacks in London, the prank was postponed. But several weeks later, “the device was placed under Rove’s chair and activated during the senior staff meeting. Everyone laughed.”
Borat likes to wrestle guys naked. Karl liked to show W. his battery-powered “Redneck Horn,” blasting obscenities and insults like “Hey, hogneck, who taught you how to drive?” in a Southern drawl.
Family values in Borat’s comic portrait of Kazakhstan are reflected by his sister, an incestuous hooker, the town rapist, a cow in the bedroom, and the annual Pamplona-like “Running of the Jew.”
Mr. Woodward writes about Bush family values, or the “Running of the WASP.” Even though Poppy Bush found his old G.O.P. nemesis Donald Rumsfeld “arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian,” the author notes, W. chose Rummy as defense chief, feeling “it was a chance to prove his father wrong.”
Borat had a fantasy life in which he would bag — literally — Pamela Anderson and yoke her happily ever after to a plow on his farm. Dick Cheney had a fantasy life in which he would bag Saddam’s W.M.D. by occupying Iraq. In July 2003, Vice and Scooter Libby pored over fragments of intelligence intercepts, trying to figure out where on earth those elusive W.M.D. were. Mr. Woodward notes that Cheney staffers even called the chief weapon hunter with satellite coordinates for possible hidden caches.
Borat thinks Pamela is silly to object to animal torture, just as Vice thinks the press is silly to object to prisoner torture.
After much chaos, Borat gives up on Pamela and marries a prostitute. After much chaos, and even though Laura wants Rummy out, W. sticks with him at Vice’s insistence.
No doubt. For lowbrow antics and silly stunts, W. is the clear winner. Respec’.
Photo credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)