Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grace and Pity

Anne Baxter as Eve in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950), via FilmFanatics.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, must be overdoing the fasting and prayer, because he's having hallucinations:
Bush, the well-funded front-runner whose poll numbers had been sliding since the summer, came prepared to swing at Rubio over his missed votes in the Senate. Rubio, the upstart running against his former mentor, responded with a mix of grace and pity, dismissing Jeb’s attack as a desperate flail, taken because “someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
Or should that be a "frothy mix of grace and pity"? It was nothing of the sort: it was a mix of standard politician deflecting a legitimate question with an irrelevant counterattack and typical Rubio spat-out syringeful of canned snake venom—it was the Trump technique of answering criticism with "You're a loser!" but without Trump's affable understanding that it's all just a game.

But because of the long relationship between the two men it had that added emotional resonance of the climactic moment of the horror movie where the monster child coolly executes his enabling parent, or, better, Eve Harrington letting Margo Channing know she's been supplanted in All About Eve. That "someone has convinced you", meant to conjure a picture of helpless JEB! being coached by his handlers, made you think equally of Rubio's own intensive rehearsal process. It did manage to make Bush look pitiable, mainly because Bush really is kind of pitiable and that's not much of a challenge, but it made himself look what my daughter would call a "little bitch". It made my teeth hurt.

The Monsignor is wondering today, "Why Isn't Marco Rubio Winning?" I keep wondering why does somebody like Douthat think he ought to be winning? What does he think Rubio has that anybody in today's Republican party wants to buy? (Unlike David Brooks, he's not bothering to pretend it's policy.)

He explains what he thinks Rubio doesn't have in terms that startled me somewhat:
in this election, many Republican voters seem to be looking for a Richard Nixon— a hard man for hard times, you might say, which isn’t really a slogan that fits the boyish-looking first term senator.
—linking back to a column of last November where he explained that of course he didn't mean the criminal Nixon who showed up out of nowhere in 1972 (who could have predicted?), but the gifted one, who "knew how to channel an angry, 'who’s looking out for me?' populism without letting himself be imprisoned by its excesses," with an
instinct for the non-ideological character of many American voters, primary voters included.
Nixon was a conservative and an opportunist in equal measure: leftward of Barry Goldwater, rightward of Nelson Rockefeller, and basically wherever the voters he was courting needed him to be. Whereas today’s Republican politicians are used to campaigning on a list of Reaganite commandments, and often seem baffled when the conversation leaves their comfort zone. As it clearly has, again thanks in part to Trump, at various points throughout this campaign...
What's stopping Rubio from being that Nixon, for Douthat, is that he may be a little too honest, not hiding his ideology, and perhaps not vicious enough:
A young politician can try to project toughness all he likes, but the only way to actually prove your toughness is to fight the battle that’s right in front of you...
I don't think those are the problems at all. But I think the Monsignor's projecting his own waspish little self into the picture makes it harder for him to read the situation.

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