Bob Roberts is an analysis of American government since the end of World War II. It adds to President Eisenhower’s speech an assessment of politicians as bi-partisan window-dressing, which forms the third article of a “military-industrial-entertainment complex”. The function of politicians is to sell the public on policies dictated by the economic demands of the other two.
This is a straightforward critique. The Vidalian slant is on the Kennedy mystique and the New Frontier, which was Vietnam. A straight line is drawn from the Bay of Pigs to Watergate to Iran-Contra. The hullabaloo of the Sixties is seen in a Republican perspective. Iraq is Vietnam.
The parody of Dylan and the Kennedy cult, the Sixties as a political and social arena for media coverage, an enterprise and still an industry, makes up much of the effort in the film, which is presented as documentary footage of a Republican senatorial campaign in Pennsylvania thirty years later. The great skill has been in the songs, also a campaign commercial or two (and music videos).
Neo-conservatives are satirized as a reflection of liberals before them, and both are represented as a continuity of experience over half a century. Critics saw only the first aspect, and found the film structurally deficient.