The 2012 campaign is now in full force. And it's not because there have been several GOP primary debates, or that a Republican candidate has already dropped out of the race, or even because President Obama has interrupted his can't-we-all-act-like-adults bit to criticize Congress.
It's because a congressman has called for an investigation into a Hollywood movie.
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the director and screenwriter who made the Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker, are now at work on a movie about Osama bin Laden. This is not only understandable but predictable. Hollywood is in business to make money, and while Bigelow and Boal are surely many levels above the filmmakers who produce movies with men acting like frat boys and grown women paralyzed by inexplicable insecurity, this movie will certainly draw a crowd. But what House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King worries about is that the Obama administration is providing the filmmakers with classified information to help them make the film.
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the concerns as "ridiculous," and while we can't know for sure, it does seem a little silly. The military operation itself required intense secrecy and protection of classified information to be successful. Why release classified information now? And why would the filmmakers need classified information? We know how it started, and we know how it ended—with bin Laden shot by a U.S. Navy SEAL. That's a pretty good movie right there, and one Americans exhausted by the toll of two wars and a recession will likely flock to see. [See a collection of political cartoons on airport security.]
The real question here is not whether classified information is being given to Hollywood, but whether King's genuine concern is timing. The movie is set to be released before the 2012 elections, arguably giving the embattled president a public relations boost right when he may need one. But does a movie make the difference? It's unthinkable that the Obama campaign will not remind people of the huge military success of killing the most hated man in America; they don't need Hollywood to do it. There may well be many films whose sourcing and facts are suspect—those would be the mockumentaries undoubtedly being created under the loose campaign finance rules in place since the Citizens United case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, that's something worth a congressional investigation.