Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Night at the Oscars for Politicians

Taking advantage of the piddling input I have with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I’m proposing a new category for the Oscars: Best Performance by a Politician.

Since that dynamic-duo accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, must receive the voters’ final ballots by the Tuesday before “Oscar Sunday,” it’s too late for the 2012 awards, but not too late to propose deserving candidates.

The run-up to the “Best Performance” honors in this new category featured a field of some pretty fair contenders who zoomed in and faded out—with a BANG...

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose artless response to President Obama's 2009 State of the Union address all but made King George VI’s speech impediment in “The King’s Speech” look like plagiarism. Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his valor during the Korean War, and a “Scarlet Letter” from the House Ethics Committee six decades later on being found guilty of only 11 charges of ethics violations (out of 12)… but refused to resign—bang!—after a trial determined his means could not be reconciled with his ways. Michele Bachmann for her embodiment of every space-kook, from “My Friend Irma” through “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” to “Clueless,” who ever stumbled across the silver screen. And John Edwards and Herman Cain and [your write-in here] who went out with a bang!
...or a whimper:

Anthony Wiener, the poster boy for optimum exposure at flexed shutter speed. John Boehner, who stunned us with his gift for turning on the tears—and concealing the ice in his veins… a neat trick! Rod Blagojevich, the first impeached governor of Illinois!, whose “irreconcilable artistic differences” with the law led to a sentence of 14 years in federal prison. And Rick Perry—the snap, crackle and stupendous fizzle of 21st century politics’ “big picture.”

Plus those serenity-sapping character “actors” who just won’t go away:

Donald Trump, for his unforgettable portrayal of a bigger blustering buffoon than the bankably boorish Donald Trump. Sarah Palin, for her debut performance as a political has-been. Joseph Lieberman, who says he’s going away, but how far?

Let’s CUT TO the award: Best Performance by a Politician. In light of the primaries and caucuses, the Republicans have had the field pretty much to themselves, although they insist on sharing it with President Obama, a gift for the Democrats that doesn’t stop giving. Kind of like an actress, any actress, supplicating Meryl Streep to join her for anything anywhere. (A lucky thing for politicians of every stripe that Streep would rather play one than be one.)

DISSOLVE TO a three-ring circus and a side show. WE PAN the nominees:

Rick Santorum (“Crouching Kitten, Hidden Dragon”) for his memorable performance as a draconian chauvinist who’d rather be extremely right than president. Mitt Romney (“The Year of Living Dishonestly”) for overcoming type-casting with his disturbing portrayal of a multiple choice personality who’d rather be “severely conservative” than moderately truthful. Newt Gingrich (“The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Also-Ran”) for his effortless emulation of all ten principal characters in “The Wizard of Oz.” And Ron Paul (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Convention”), unremitting in search of a meaningful role.
I propose that anyone voting for a candidate in this category be required to show a home-state issued Voter ID card. Credit cards will not be acceptable, particularly Platinum ones. Driver’s licenses won’t do. Vehicle Registration cards—negotiable, but since we’re talking Hollywood here, no vehicles older than last year’s. What’s that, Mitt? All right, this year’s.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Down for the Count of Nine

You can’t keep a good country down. And say what you will about The United States of America, it’s a good country. I don’t have to give you reasons—in your blood and in your bones, in your fiber and your core, you know them. Malcontents and dissidents, progressives and libertarians, etiologists, animists and even bloggers know them.

So, we’re on the ropes and our inevitability buckles, we sag and we drop… down, but not out, never out. We take the count of nine and, somehow, the spring comes back to our psyches and we start punching back.

Six days ago, The Labor Department reported that the U.S. unemployment rate had fallen to 8.3 percent, a noteworthy return to the level of President Obama’s first full month in office after climbing to a high of 10 percent in late 2009
and 243,000 jobs were added in January at the fastest pace in the last nine months. Add to that good news that the jobs market had larger gains in earlier months than previously reported and the economy has been gaining strength for almost six months. And it doesn’t stop there: “Over the last year, the economy has added almost two million jobs for the best twelve months in five years. Stocks surged, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closing only slightly below its high since Mr. Obama took office” and the Dow Jones Industrial average at its highest since May 19, 2008, eight months before the president took office.

You’d think that such positive news would be welcome, wouldn’t you? Why am I even asking? Because we have those among us who don’t want the country to succeed, not if a president not of their party gets any credit. Whom do you imagine would greet such good tidings with such crepe-hanging prose?, like: “This recovery has been slower than it should have been. People have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer. Will it get better? I think it’ll get better. But this president has not helped the process. He’s hurt it.” Does that help "the process"?

The sour grapes comes from Mitt Romney, who, to paraphrase Henry Clay, would rather be right
to be president—as far right as Republican voters will buy, it’s fair to add. Romney, and Clay, who preceded him by almost two centuries, make an interesting comparison. Clay was nicknamed "The Great Compromiser." Flip-flop didn’t enter the American lexicon until 1944, three years before Romney was born. Clay was a candidate for president three times on three different “Republican” tickets, and failed. Romney, as we know, is on his second run, but doesn’t seem inclined to take no for an answer, not even by practically everyone in his own party. Clay was a dedicated conservative of his time. Romney is a chameleon, all the time.

In lieu of roaring back, our economy may only be purring back, but it’s pure catnip, not partisan fodder, for those hurting the most. We the People feed on optimism. And optimism feeds on itself. Any sports fan, any prayer fan, any romantic (for Cupid’s sake!), can tell you that.

Can a $26 billion settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks and a hoped-for value that would stretch to 39 million and nine additional major mortgage servicers, having the potential to provide relief to nearly two million current and former homeowners, be bad? Even flawed and in flux, bad? I give it 24 hours before the first bellyacher grouses.

In high school, I had a mentor, an inspiring English professor we used to call Uncle Joe. To this day, I think about a lecture wherein he contended that the key to the success of American pilots during World War Two was their unfailing sense of humor. The impact of his insight is reinforced every time I see a movie with the actor-pilots bantering wittily while exploding flak threatens to bring them and their planes down from the skies. I see an overkill of flak emanating from Capitol Hill and the campaign trail threatening to bring down the electorate, but a woeful dearth of wit or humor to elevate or stir. Fortunately, you can’t keep a good country down.