Thursday, May 19, 2016

Douthat, just saying: His angst evident in his hair

Macy's bone structure is completely different, but he could capture some of the psychotic character of Bill Kristol.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, does something really peculiar ("The Dying of the Third-Party Dream"):

Of all the strange images of this strange campaign, I find myself particularly struck by this vision: Mitt Romney, pacing alone in one of his many houses, his angst evident in his faintly mussed-up hair, placing pleading phone calls to Republican politicians asking them to run as a third-party candidate against Donald Trump.
That bizarre, existential one-act play — “Conversations About Trump,” opening Off Broadway, with Josh Brolin as Romney and the voice of William H. Macy as John Kasich — is apparently where the quest for a conservative alternative to Trump and Hillary Clinton ran into a wall.
I'm an idiot about celebrity news, so it didn't occur to me that that bit was meant rhetorically, and I was quite disappointed when the link led not to further information on this imaginary play but to a dumb insider article about Republicans in the Washington Post, by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, the GOP's earnestly savvy ambassador to the wider world. And Dr. Google couldn't uncover any information about Conversations about Trump either.

Apparently, and you've probably figured this out already, Ross stitched the idea together himself, out of his personal knowledge of the dramatic arts (he's said to have a regular gig as National Review film critic, that must be a bitter pill for Goldberg, but his reviews are behind the paywall so I can't comment on them), as a somewhat heavy-footed gag.

Brolin has done live theater (a 2000 revival of Sam Shepherd's True West), and maybe it could be existential because his upcoming movie is called No Exit, though I'm pretty sure it has little if any connection with Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos (it's about fighting wildfires in Arizona), and Jacob Heilbrunn opined in a Politico article a couple of months ago that Romney was playing Brolin (in Brolin's role as a movie producer in the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar) when he attempted to slap the conservative movement out of its neurasthenic inanition in the face of the Trump threat. Brolin has of course also played George W. Bush, in W (2008), and Swedish film blogger Stefan Hedmark has suggested he ought to play Romney. William H. Macy as Kasich is probably an error: that should be Steve Buscemi, who did a memorable turn as Kasich and his strangely obsessive animosity toward the 1996 film Fargo (by the Coen brothers and with stars including both Macy and Buscemi, as the guy whose body is fed into the wood chipper) on the Late Show in April:

I'm sure Brolin is a terrific actor, but could he really communicate angst through his hair?

Ross really wishes that the Mittster himself had done this third-party thing, not that it would have changed anything in the race, but for moral reasons:

On a strategic level this case mostly adds up. But on a moral level I have some modest doubts.
Set aside the gaming-out of post-November scenarios and simply ask the question: Is it a good thing for the country, or for that matter for the world, that our only options in November are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? It’s clear that the answer for a great many people remains a resounding “heaven help us, no.”
Modest, but moral. What does that mean, exactly? We're stuck with Clinton and Trump as the only candidates (the Libertarians and Greens apparently don't for the purposes of his argument exist), and this could be an immoral outcome—in its national and international consequences—and this immorality would have been corrected by the candidacy of Willard (though it's agreed that it was as hopeless, politically, as Gary Johnson's or Dr. Jill Stein's). What exactly is immoral about it?

I think myself, speaking as a sometimes-almost-comfortable Clinton supporter (now that she's safe, I'm starting to get really itchy again—Scott Lemieux's piece yesterday made me feel better), that the situation is bad for the country intellectually, in that a debate with Trump on one side is going to be a really inferior debate and the voters are not going to learn anything they need from it. Somebody like Romney or Kasich (not Rubio or Cruz or really any of the rest of the dirty dozen and a half) would have introduced some legitimate content that Clinton could have used for teachable moments, though they do not offer any useful ideas of their own, and it's sort of sad that the conservative movement has emptied itself out to this extent, but it's really been that way since 1980, Ross, if not 1968, and it never had any positive content anyway, starting in 1790. Standing athwart history yelling stop! is not a program, nor is "cut my taxes", and everything else is a transparent rationalization.

Ross, of course, doesn't himself think, or doesn't say whether he thinks, it's immoral. A "great many people" do. He's just saying.

By “people” here I don’t just mean Bill Kristol or Bernie Sanders’s campaign team or anyone else with a professional stake in stopping Trump or Clinton. I mean the extraordinary numbers of Americans who regard both parties’ likely nominees with a mix of fear, exhaustion and disgust, and whose entirely reasonable sentiments will make Trump-versus-Clinton a battle of the two most reviled nominees in modern presidential history.
That link of course to and an analytical discussion of the "strongly unfavorable" numbers, which are pretty "extraordinary" but do not necessarily add up to fear, exhaustion and disgust, although there is certainly a good deal of reviling going on. Trust Ross to blame the candidates for getting reviled. He's not saying what Clinton did to deserve it, he's just saying, once again.

if you believe that either choice risks too much, for the republic or the world — or if you merely think that Trump risks too much and that in a head-to-head race he might find a way to win — then by leaving the voters with only those options you are effectively choosing to leave grave evils unopposed.
And it would be so much better to ineffectively choose to oppose them? Monsignor, you don't need Romney for that—you've been doing it yourself twice a week for months. You mean regardless of what I believe it's immoral for me not to think like you and Rubio?

Or only immoral for Douthat's readers, depending on what they "believe"? If the readers believe, as Marco Rubio affected to believe, that either a President Clinton or a President Trump would afflict the nation and the entire world with irreparable disaster, then it's their moral duty to push a hopeless alternative in addition to the hopeless alternatives (Stein, Johnson, and so on) that already exist? Or alternatively if you think Clinton would not be catastrophic but there's a terrible danger Trump might beat her you should back some certain loser who is not Clinton?

Logic, how does it work?

But don't be mistaken about the column. Douthat isn't actually arguing that Romney ought to be running, or expressing his deep sorrow that Romney isn't running, or anything of the sort. As usual his job isn't to say anything, it's to accumulate a thick impasto of innuendo over the canvas of what's actually going on, putting the palette knife to the actual fear and repulsion most educated people feel at the thought of a President Trump and smearing it over candidate Clinton. He's not saying anything at all, he's just saying. But too bad about the play.

Hoping to see Leonardo di Caprio (Django Unchained, 2012) at his snarliest playing Ross Douthat in the upcoming Coen brothers journalism comedy Just Saying. That's an actor who can do angst with his hair.
Update: Thank goodness, as we learn from Loomis, morally satisfying David Koch is planning to furnish morally satisfying former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson with some morally satisfying funding in the tens of millions of dollars, should Johnson obtain the Libertarian nomination for the presidency, so maybe the monsignor can calm down a little with the entrance of a conservative non-Clinton, non-Trump into a more visible lane. Hahahaha, no way: Johnson, former Republican governor of New Mexico, supports legalization of marijuana, abortion rights, and same-sex marriage, The truth is, what the monsignor hates about Trump isn't what you hate about Trump, his ignorance and monstrous self-regard and encouragement to racism and violence and lack of interest in governance and sheer tastelessness: What part of "Republican" don't you understand? Ross is just afraid Trump doesn't hate women and gay people as much as he claims to. Updeupdate: The story, originally from that unimpeachable source the Daily Caller, has been denied by everybody involved and probably is not true,

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