Still taking a break. Nonetheless, this was too on-the-nose not to share, for election 2012 is dark and full of terrors. Enjoy.
“I can’t think of a surer way to lose both our national soul and the struggle against terrorism. Yes, Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Palin, there’s a cultural-political offensive afoot to undermine our civilization. And you’re leading it.” Slate‘s William Saletan reviews the current GOP jihad against a potential mosque near Ground Zero (not to be confused with the mosque that’s already been there for 40 years.) But, on the bright side, at least now we know not to take the ADL seriously anymore. (See, by way of contrast, J-Street’s statement.)
“If there were any doubts that Sarah Palin is a total idiot, she settled them with that single statement….Tip to Sarah Palin: Obama may have some vulnerabilities, and you may have some strengths, but command of the issues doesn’t fall in either category.” As the up traffic here in DC, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan beats back some of the dumber GOP attacks on Obama’s nuclear policy, while Joe Conason tries to explain what Ronald Reagan really thought about nukes.
Sigh…Pick any issue these days, and for far too many of the GOP opposition, the question seems to come down to whether they’re out-and-out venal or just incompetent. Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.
Well, i’ll have to reserve final judgment for several months or years down the line — It’s hard to think of any Coen film that hasn’t improved considerably with age and/or repeat viewings (although I have yet to give The Ladykillers, another spin.) But, for now, the brothers’ larky spy spoof Burn After Reading, which I caught last week, feels right now like medium-grade Coen. (Mind you, saying Burn is middling by Coen standards isn’t a criticism per se — Even medium-grade Coen delivers at several degrees above standard film fare, if you’ve acquired the taste for it.) Burn is nowhere near as funny as, say, The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona, and I actually prefer the much-maligned and underappreciated Intolerable Cruelty. But it does hit at about the level of The Man Who Wasn’t There or The Hudsucker Proxy, and I think it could even grow into O Brother territory one day.
Like Lebowski after Fargo and Barton Fink after their magnum opus, Miller’s Crossing, Burn has that jaunty, drawing-outside-the-lines, devil-may-care ambience to it, which suggests the project was mainly just a mental sorbet of sorts for the brothers after their dour venture into (Cormac) McCarthyism, No Country for Old Men. In any case, I could see the film falling flat to those moviegoers ambivalent to or aggravated by Coenisms. But if, like me, you enjoy panning for hidden gold in their slow-fuse sight gags (among them this time are purple sex cushions, Jamba Juices, and Dermot Mulroney) and relish their penchant for eminently quotable buffoonery (“You too can be a spy, madam“), I suspect you’ll have a decently good time with Burn. There are worse fates in this world than having drunk the Coen Kool-aid.
Just to make sure we’ve all moved on from the dark contours of west Texas nihilism, Burn after Reading is basically goofy from Jump Street: It begins with a ludicrous eye-in-the-sky shot of Planet Earth, eventually zooming down into Langley, VA, that (give or take a few more flashy whip-pans and slo-mos) would seem more at home in a Tony Scott film. Our Great Eye soon settles upon the sacking from the Balkans desk of one Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich), a veteran CIA analyst with a hair-trigger temper, a cold, cuckolding wife (Tilda Swinton), and — at least by the standards of Mormons — a problem with the sauce. (To his credit, he tends to wait until exactly 5pm, and not a minute later, to commence the day’s boozing — On Mad Men, he’d be a teetotaller.) Determined to exact his revenge on the Bureau for this slight (and perhaps save face before both his wife and aging father, the very definition of silent reproach), Cox commences to penning his “memoirs,” most of which — in the venerable memoir tradition — is a ponderous, self-serving litany of blatant name-dropping. (He fancies himself as one of “Murrow’s Boys” to containment architect George Kennan. I would guess this self-assessment is somewhat inflated.)
But, due to some twists and turns involving divorce proceedings, Cox’s manuscript (in CD form) ends up in the hands of Linda Litzke and Chad Feldheimer (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt), two enterprising, if somewhat clueless, employees at the local athletic center, Hardbodies. Alas, both Linda (blinded by her desire to procure cosmetic surgery and get off the Internet dating train) and Chad, not the brightest bulb on the tree in any event, make the critical mistake of thinking this “raw intelligence” is something somebody might actually be interested in, and thus said gym rats decide to blackmail Cox into paying for return of the CD. And, if that fails, well, they’ll still get theirs by going to the Russians with the data…but, of course, things don’t go exactly according to plan. Throw some X-factors into the equation — say, George Clooney as the paramour of both Mrs. Cox and Linda, a paranoid, lactose-intolerant US marshall who loves three things in this world: kinky sex, a good post-coital run, and quality flooring; or Richard Jenkins as the kindly Orthodox priest turned Hardbodies manager who nurtures a crush for Ms. Litzke from afar — and this proposed blackmail starts to get really, really complicated. It’s no wonder the CIA suits (J.K. Simmons and David Rasche) can’t wrap their heads around it. What are they, rocket scientists?
Now, a caveat: If you find Coen movies to be generally irritating, you’re probably going to loathe this film, and those critics who think the brothers are nothing more than elitist misanthropes (See, for example, Dave Kehr on No Country: “a series of condescending portraits of assorted hicks, who are then brutally murdered for our entertainment“) will have a field day in panning this film. To this line of criticism, I would say two things: First, Burn is assuredly the work of equal-opportunity misanthropes — It’s clearly as ruthless toward Malkovich’s self-centered, Princeton-educated ninny as it is to the good-natured boobs at Hardbodies. (Besides, speaking as someone who burnt out years ago on the Internet dating rigamarole, and who now runs mostly at night, partly to facilitate the Chet-and-his-iPod-type grooving, it’s not like the foibles of Coen’s characters here aren’t at least somewhat universal.)
Second, particularly every time I read the news these days and find not only that I’m honestly expected to take a silly, patently unqualified, score-settling and habitually dishonest fundie like Sarah Palin — a.k.a. an evil Marge Gunderson with the leadership skills of Johnny Caspar (minus his ethical instincts) and the stuck-in-Vietnam worldview of Walter Sobchak — seriously as a potential leader of the Free World, but that close to half of our country is actually enthused by this notion because, well, shucks, she’s “just like us”…well, I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that intelligence is relative, and that elitist misanthropy (or misanthropic elitism, if you’d prefer) might just end up being the new black. It’s a Coen world, y’all. They didn’t make the rules, and they — and we — are just living in it.
“Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of ‘good old boy’ politics and a champion of ethics reform…But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents ‘haters’ — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.“
As if Sarah Palin’s recent spate of lies weren’t enough to cast doubt on her fitness for the Oval Office, the NYT delves into the Alaska Governor’s backstory…and finds ugly shadows therein. “Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.“
By way of Megg, BSG fans marvel at the visual and thematic comparisons between the McCain-Palin and Roslin-Tigh tickets. To be fair, Sen. McCain — while clearly a patently unstable fellow and a fake maverick who flips into sleeper agent mode whenever he hears His Master’s Voice — didn’t actually kill his first wife (Ellen) and bed down with a younger, well-connected Cylon woman (Six). Not quite, anyway. And Gov. Palin, while as pro-life and fundie-delusional as Roslin can be on her bad days, hasn’t actually tried to steal the election…yet.
“As one McCain aide put it: “We either get Hillary’s voters and we win, or we don’t. It’s not a mystery.” In a move that reeks of desperate Hail Mary strategizing (and, to my mind, grossly overestimates the potential PUMA vote in this country), John McCain chooses Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a woman he’d barely spoken to before yesterday, as his running mate. (I was flying back from Denver when the news hit, and it’s safe to say the selection of “Geraldine Quayle” was met with general jubilation throughout the plane.)
Basically, I think Sarah Palin is a wonderful pick…for the Democrats. Palin may have been an excellent governor over the past year — who knows? — but she’s an astoundingly poor choice for vice-president, worse even than Dan Quayle in the sheer tactical transparency of it. And I have every suspicion this gambit will backfire massively. To my mind, picking a running mate whose only obvious asset to the ticket is her second X-chromosome, and thinking that her sheer presence alone will somehow bring women to vote for McCain in droves, is not only a deeply sexist notion, it’s patently idiotic. (Just ask Walter Mondale how well the any-female-we-can-find strategy works.)
Her femininity aside — and, let’s be clear, that’s obviously why McCain picked her, unless (I say this as a short man myself) he just wanted a veep smaller than him — here’s a candidate who [a] mayored a town of 7000 people — college campus presidents have done more heavy lifting, [b] has been the GOP governor, for less than two years, of a state widely known to be a sinkhole of Republican corruption, [c] has her own ready-made scandal attached vis a vis this illegal firing of her ex-brother-in-law, [d] is a pro-life, creationist supporter of Pat Buchanan, and [e] has admitted earlier this month she didn’t even know what McCain’s stance on Iraq is. Now, that type of blatant ignorance may be what the GOP wants from their voters, but it’s damn sure not what voters want from their presidential tickets.
One has to wonder: If the McCain campaign was going to stake everything on such a pathetically obvious gambit for the PUMA vote, why didn’t they just pick Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who also has the advantage of actually being qualified for the job? Well, apparently Sen. Hutchison wasn’t sufficiently pro-life enough to fend off the fundies. So Team McCain had to venture all the way north of the border to find a pro-lifer up to snuff for the evangelical crazies…but don’t worry, he’s still a maverick independent and everything.
|Oh my god, really?
Look, to be fair, I was halfway through a post last night on my own site about how ridiculous I though all the hard-right Freepers/Cornerites/etc. were harping about Palin. She was basically their new Fred Thompson. But I am seriously dumbfounded that they would have been this stupid.
Don’t get me wrong, on a PR level this is masterful for McCain. He’s killed all the momentum and press coverage about Obama’s amazing speech last night. So I really am amazed they think that one shot at gaining the press advantage was worth the most unbelievably inept VP pick I could have possibly imagined.
Forget even among fields of conservatives in general: is anyone from the McCain camp going to make a convincing case that Palin is remotely close to the most qualified woman in the GOP to be a heartbeat away from taking over a guy who turns 72 today and has a history of cancer? She has been governor- for 18 months- of a state with a population smaller than Obama’s state senate district in Illinois. Her previous office was the mayor of an Alaskan town with a population smaller than 3,000 people. At the very minimum, Obama has sat in on foreign policy sessions and dealt with national and international issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Palin has no foreign policy experience. This is literally one step above giving the slot to the winner of a game show.
So in what I can only perceive as a complete fit of insanity, McCain has decided to destroy with one pick the three talking points he had as an advantage over Obama:
Experience: She has none. Palin is utterly unqualified to be president of the U.S. Senate, let alone the country should anything befall McCain.
Celebrity: She’s a former beauty pageant winner who’s done multiple cover shoots for fashion and culture magazines and her claim to fame is being the subject of an article titled “America’s Hottest Governor.” There will be more talk about how she’s attractive than her actual policy credentials. Her gender, in light of her utter political weakness, will be seen blatantly- and rightly- as the novelty McCain picked it for. There is no clearer a celebrity pick for McCain than this one.
Moderate Female Voters: Putting aside for a moment that she’s outrageously anti-choice, if McCain truly believes that what really appeals to middle-age working-class white women is a younger, prettier, but amazingly less-qualified woman getting the promotion that Hillary Clinton didn’t, then I can’t really reflect any greater how utterly deaf to the interests of women the Republican Party is.
Jesus tap-dancing Christ. If McCain wanted a former beauty queen with no experience and a criminal investigation on her record I don’t know why he didn’t just pick his own wife.
Update: Rasmussen has the first post-Palin poll, and it seems a gender gap has already emerged — Women aren’t really buying it. “These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable impression of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point margin.” [Via Firedoglake.]