Cast a Cold Eye on New Hampshire BY STEVEN KELLMAI1 FEED Directed by Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway THE PANAMA DECEPTION Directed by Barbara Trent THOUGH ANDY WARHOL FAMOUSLY quipped that we will all be famous for 15 minutes, some people are always on camera. However much they preach the virtues of private enterprise, national politicians conduct their own private enterprises in public. But, despite the minions and the mobs, presidential candidates suffer the loneliness of the long distance runner. The campaign is like a sentence of solitary confinement, while millions gawk through the peephole of the cell. Early in the TV age, Orwell imagined a world in which Big Brother is always watching us. In Feed, it is the leaders who cannot escape our electronic gaze. “Is there a table facing the wall?” asks Paul Tsongas as he faces a battery of photographers eager to record every bite of his cheeseburger in a small New Hampshire diner. The 1992 New Hampshire presidential primary as recorded by Feed is a junk food diet for the body politic. Directed by Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway \(a Washington journalist whose work appears in The Texas previous collaboration; if Blood in the Face, their 1991 study of American neo-Nazism, documented the banality of evil, Feed suggests the evil of banality. Supplemented by satellite feed supplied by Brian Springer, the film focuses on the idle moments of five Democrats \(Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey and Paul Tsongas, but for the Granite State vote. We observe them before and after official events, when a face sometimes gapes beneath the mask of righteous civil servant. While waiting for a broadcast to begin, Brown drains his sinuses. Bush seems simply drained. There is a certain naughty enjoyment in the spectacle of a United States Senator, chipper Kerrey, offering his hand to a woman who refuses to shake it. But Feed is a compilation of cheap shots. Even celebrities lose their glamour on candid camera. Though Allen Ginsberg imagined Walt Steven Kellrnan teaches comparative literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Whitman in a supermarket in California, an actual encounter with the good gray poet between the antacids and the dental floss would probably not be edifying. The wonder is that the film’s 76 minutes of political voyeurism offer so few genuine embarrassments, or even revelations. But, while belaboring the obvious, that it takes powerful pomade to maintain a part 24 hours a day, Feed ventilates its own bad. conscience. Electoral politics is distorted by an emphasis on image, and, by appealing to our prurient curiosity over what men look like when unobserved, the film admits its complicity with the Clinton worker who scoffs at homely Tsongas’s prospects for victory: “We are not gonna lose to someone who wears a pocket protector.” Arnold Schwarzenegger, preening at a Republican rally, dismisses Bush’s Democratic challengers because “They all look like girlie-men.” Unprotected from an open mike, a local TV anchor is heard to say that he would not vote for Kerrey because: “He looks like a kid.” If looks could kill, scoundrels and incompetents would win elective office. With the possible exception of the seamless, selfeffacing Tsongas, who is never off because he is never quite on, Feed would kill the pretensions of every candidate it exposes. In footage from her press conference, Gennifer Flowers claims to have been Clinton’s lover for 12 years. “He has wonderful lips,” she tells reporters. “Did Governor Clinton use a condomrasks one. “Are you sleeping with any of the other presidential candidates?” asks another. The viewer of Feed scorns the media’s feeding frenzy, yet keeps on watching. When Buchanan refuses to respond to why he, an outspoken Catholic, has no children, we feel unfed. Clinton’s reasonable reply to whether he has ever had an extramarital affair”If I had, I wouldn’t tell you” snubs the camera’s salacious brand of candor. Feed opens with the image of Bush sitting patiently 3-1/2 minutes before air time. We return to him throughout the film, and, at its very end, we see him still staring vacantly into space. The president’s catatonic mien does not inspire trust. Feed presumably means to warn us against supporting a candidate who looks like such a dunce. Modern electronic media have replaced phrenology with divination by physiognomy. But, though you can sometimes tell a book by its cover, you always learn more by reading it. It is not because he appears goofy during unguarded moments that Bush richly deserves retirement, if not indictment. The conquest of Panama is much more disturbing than a witless grin. On Dec. 20, 1989, Bush launched a three-day war against the tiny isthmus nation. When the smoke from the invaders’ massive firepower finally cleared, as many as 4,000 civilians were dead and 20,000 left homeless. The Panamanian Defense Forces were neutralized, and the United States was poised to abrogate the treaty obligating it to relinquish the Panama Canal. After covertly channeling $10 million into the campaigns of presidential candidate Guillermo Endara and his allies, Washington was able to replace its former client, Manuel Noriega, with more compliant lackeys. To justify intervention in the affairs of a sovereign nation, the United States government had demonized Noriega as a tyrant and a narcotrafficker. But after “Operation Just Cause,” which just caused enormous suffering for the Panamanian people, the Central American nation is no closer to democracy. Its drug trade has more than doubled. The Panama Deception documents the military escapade that served as rehearsal for Operation Desert Storm. The rough, early version that I reviewed in these pages \(TO, Invasion in Panama, making the rounds of various film festivals. Director Barbara Trent and writer/editor David Kasper have expanded their 35-minute work-inprogress into a forceful 90-minute brief against Yankee aggression and against media complicity with international injustice. They now situate the 1989 attack within a larger historical context. They have added music by Sting, Jackson Browne, Jorge Strunz, Ismael Rivera and others to a film that is being exhibited nationally in the kinds of commercial theaters that also offer Lethal Weapon 3. The Panama Deception is reminding remarkably large audiences that, as narrator Elizabeth Montgomery reports, “The invasion was swift, intense and merciless.” It was also deceptive. “To say `coverup’ is an understatement,” says U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York. Like Feed, The Panama Deception questions the images that nourish our views of public policy. It accuses the mainstream North American media of ethnocentrism in ignoring the plight of thousands of Panamanian victims while focusing on a few U.S. casualties. Coverage concentrated on tactical, not political or ethical, issues and was largely sympathetic to the military effort at expanding American corporate power. It 22 OCTOBER 30, 1992 .