Thursday, September 3, 2015

We're only human

Image via Don Zeigler.
Spent a ridiculous amount of time playing BooMan's new game:
Here's an exercise. Tell me your answers to following questions. Which Republican presidential candidate:
1. is the funniest.
2. is the smartest.
3. seems like the most decent person.
4. would you drink a beer with (if you had to).
5. is the most gifted politician?
And then the opposite—the least funny, the dumbest, and so on. My solution is over the fold:
OK just for fun, before I look at everybody else's:
  1. I'm pretty sure Lindsey Graham is the funniest, I don't remember what makes me so sure, but here's what Google turns up. His favorite comedian is Richard Pryor, which you wouldn't hear Christie saying.
  2. Smartest is Trump. Not book smart (I believe rumors that Rubio is moderately intelligent in that sense, Cruz is a fraud in that as in all things, Kasich used to be sort of bright in a good-on-NPR way) but Trump is one wily son of a bitch and could be extremely book smart if he felt like it. His annoying brother-in-law shtik is full of actual information from all over the place, he has a great memory and a very quick brain. Carson is a surgeon, pretty damn smart--it's religion (Seventh-Day Adventist) that makes him so ignorant--but not a very effective verbal thinker.
  3. As a New Yorker I can't give you Pataki as best. I guess Gilmore, but it's just my ignorance. Kasich has shown moral sense in a relevant place (Medicaid) in a way none of the others has (Rubio on immigration? No.).
  4. I'll have a beer with Graham, with Carly Fiorina as a close second (if I can get her really drunk and the actual person emerges, fat chance though).
  5. Trump seems like the most gifted politician. A few weeks ago I would have said Walker, who's as obsessive as Nixon, but now he seems so out of his depth. Lindsey Graham is a great politician, a famous baby-kisser and constituent-schmoozer, though S.C. is easy for fascists like him so he really hasn't been challenged. His failure in this contest is because he's not really interested in doing the work--don't know what he wants, but he doesn't want to be president.
And the other way around
  1. Cruz is the least funny.
  2. Perry is the dumbest all round, I can't imagine how he ever got elected.
  3. Cruz is too easy as the worst, a cartoon villain. Paul and Huckabee are pretty evil, but they're just grifters. I think history will say Walker if he survives politically long enough.
  4. I could live through the beer with Cruz or Christie by mocking them, but not Walker. I think I might get in a fistfight with Paul, though. He'd be the worst.
  5. The worst politician is Fiorina, with J.E.B. pretty terrible.
Anybody else want a toss?

I think there are two interesting things about my answer: that I couldn't find a place at all for Bobby Jindal, who is thus objectively shown to be more mediocre than I realized, even though I think of him as pretty interesting in a sick way; and that asked to think of a Republican I can say something good about, I gravitate to those whose hypocrisy and fraudulence is in some way amusing, and who seem to be in it less out conviction than some kind of shits 'n' giggles.

Speaking of which, some people have been getting a lot of pleasure out of David Corn's headline at Mother Jones:

Hillary Clinton's Emails Show She's Basically Julia Louis-Dreyfus in "Veep"

There's definitely some Selina Meyer in HRC—or vice versa.

Which I think is a little unfair, in the sense that, as Corn himself acknowledges at the end,
these emails display a hardworking secretary juggling many issues while trekking the world and frequently responding to challenges with a sharp and sarcastic sense of humor. But they indicate that government work can be arduous and, at times, silly and surreal.
But there's something to discuss in a remark from some commenter somewhere, I've lost track, whose idea I sort of stole:
Which is that in point of fact, the difference between Veep and House of Cards is not so much that one is more realistic than the other, but that they characterize (under certain kinds of dramaturgical heightening) different parties, as the US party system has developed since 1968 or so. And I don't mean that Democrats are funny and Republicans are scary, although there's something to that—House of Cards is a comedy after all, though a guignol kind of comedy like Richard III. I mean that they're both funny, but funny in different ways; Veep laughing, so to speak, at how difficult it is to be good, and House of Cards at how seductive it is to be wicked.

Think of it in terms of the contrast between a Democratic senator like Chuck Schumer, say, and a Republican one like Mitch McConnell. Schumer is a profoundly ridiculous person, but you can see in his winsome, yearning face that he'd love to be a good person if only it were more convenient, and indeed he often does the right thing just for the pure pleasure of it, when it isn't entirely necessary. He's in politics because of his longing for love, and this makes him foolish and sympathetic at the same time. McConnell, in contrast, longs above all to feel potent, and frightening, and he'll never do the right thing unless to get a specific edge over a rival or enemy, because he doesn't want to look like a patsy—so he looks weak, fearful, and yet dangerous. The comedy of Schumer is humane, based in our failure to live up to our finest aspirations; the comedy of McConnell is brittle and disillusioned, based in recognition of human depravity. At the end, we want Schumer to be given back a shred of dignity, to get his wig on straight, square his shoulders, and walk off; we want McConnell to end up in a mud puddle screaming for servants to come and pull him out.

Every Republican administration—Nixon-Ford, Reagan-Bush, Bush—makes us so angry and cynical that we almost can't see any good in the Democratic administration that follows it, at least at first. Bush made us think of the presidency as intrinsically evil, even as he bumbled his way through with at least as much incompetence as any actual wickedness, and the truly evil people seemed to be the ones manipulating him on the inside of the administration: it was a contest for pure, idea-free dominance, and profits for the hidden overlords who paid for the campaigns. Everything they wanted to do was negative: lower taxes, deprive poor people of help, stop more people from voting, end regulation of industry, replace terrible government in Afghanistan and Iraq with no government at all. Six and a half years into the Obama administration, you finally have to acknowledge a desire and an effort to give people something, constantly hampered by the ineptness of the means government provides and the frailty of people.

In Clinton's emails, what you get is that kind of comedy, and it's redemptive—we're only human!

No comments:

Post a Comment