Politics & Policy

Triumph of a Nice Old Man; He’s Baaack; Ooops!; Housecleaning Monday


Let’s not dwell too long on the Oscars. Considering that it was so long I had to shave twice before it was over, I don’t care to relive too much of it. But we must take a moment to consider Elia Kazan’s triumph. Despite the attempts of Stalin’s sympathizers, a nice old man who made some wonderful pictures received a lifetime achievement award before his life was over. The Hollywood Left has insisted that his actions 47 years ago were so heinous as to make him complicit in one the century’s most evil episodes. This is the industry that has honored such Oscar-winners as: All the President’s Men, Serpico, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Norma Rae, On the Waterfront, Silkwood, and innumerable other films which glorified people who expose corruption, inform on nefarious conspirators, and generally “blow the lid” on evil. And yet, when someone in their own ranks does precisely that in real life — under extremely difficult circumstances — he is vilified.

So he got his award, which was richly deserved. Warren Beatty stood up for the man who launched his career. So did Karl Malden, the man who nominated Kazan. Phylicia Rashad, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Hunt, Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates — stunningly — rose to their feet, as did many other noted Hollywood liberals. Then there were the members of the rump rear guard of the lost revolution, such as Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, and, of course, the ever-relevant Ed Asner, who sat glumly by. Already, friends of mine are compiling lists for our own black list — a moratorium on films by these actors for a minimum of two years. For some this will be difficult. Nick Nolte is a great actor and Holly Hunter was in Raising Arizona, one of the greatest movies ever made. For others this will be fairly easy, that is unless you feel compelled to watch old episodes of Lou Grant.

What does it mean that Kazan received such a warm reception? Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the Left was incapable of mustering popular outrage about something they were wrong about. The bad news is that at some level some of this must be attributed to the Left’s success in arguing that compartmentalization is a morally legitimate phenomenon. It’s not that the Left doesn’t think informing on a Stalinist cabal which was taking orders from a foreign dictator is evil. It’s just that after they argued so long and so hard that a sexually predatory president and serial perjurer should be allowed to keep his job because he’s doing such a good job talking about baby car seats, they can’t turn on a dime so quickly. Still, progress was made last night and a nice old man got a well-deserved award.


For those of you who missed it on Friday, the president announced his Full-Employment Act for Critics, Columnists, and Clinton-Haters. He called it a press conference. But that’s just Washington-talk. Take his remark that when history is written, he will just have one little negative mark in his box score, weighed against hundreds and hundreds of times when he didn’t “abuse his authority” or lie to the American people.

Now this is real compartmentalization. First, let’s just let him get away with the bizarre assertion that there will be only one negative mark. Is that how we measure presidential conduct now? With batting averages? If he goes and tells the truth under oath, say, ten more times, does that mean he gets another free lie? What’s the ratio? A two-term presidency runs just shy of 3,000 days. So if he drops bombs on innocent people to change the news cycle only once or twice, that’s a responsible-president to war-criminal-president ratio of 3,000 to 1 or 2. That’s not bad at all. You know, maybe that’s how he quantifies infidelity:

“Let’s see, I was faithful to Hillary all last week and on Monday and Tuesday of this week, so that means even if I knock back a few interns on Wednesday and Thursday, I will still be faithful to Hillary by a factor of more than 12 to 2, or 6 to 1, depending on how I crunch the numbers.”

But the really amazing thing about the press conference was the way it illustrated that he simply can’t use the English language anymore. He did a good job, and yet me and my couch were sitting there like the guys in Mystery Science Theater, commenting on every line. When he said he’s been involved with law enforcement ever since he was attorney general of Arkansas, who didn’t think about Juanita Broaddrick and think out loud, “Yeah, as a perp.” When he talked about how Al Gore was having trouble tooting his own horn, but that he would be glad to toot Al’s horn for him, was I the only one who thought of ten thousand Monica Lewinsky jokes?


The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz caught a great New York Times correction and I didn’t — which bothers me a great deal. Last Monday, the Times reported on the pilgrimage of policy wonks and journalist-experts flying down to Austin for private meetings with Governor Bush. The piece included this whopper of a sentence: “There may never have been a ‘serious’ candidate who needed it more.”

The Times’s editor’s note on Friday explained, “The article included an opinionated sentence casting doubt on his mastery of those issues. The sentence was sent as a message between editors after the article was written, and the reporters were never aware of it. The comment was typed in a nonprinting computer script, but converted into print through a command error.”



When Clarification and Correction Friday spills over to the next G-File, it becomes Housecleaning Monday, so here we go.

Polls close today at 5:00 PM on the Lincoln poll. Thanks for participating. It looks like 87% “Hero” and 13% “Tyrant” will hold. But there’s still time. Hey, don’t those constantly plugged on-the-air MSNBC online polls only get like 1,000 votes? And we got 1,500 and climbing!

Anyway on with the housecleaning. Many of you took exception to the ballot, saying that there was room somewhere between “Hero” and “Tyrant.” I know, you’re right, but what do you want me to do about it? H&T seems to capture people’s feelings well enough. Tomorrow, I will announce the results and then I will settled the Lincoln/Civil War debate forever. So definitive will my declaration be, it will render all Civil War reenactments pointless.

The biggest leftover business from last week was my alleged smearing of Birmingham. I’ve gotten dozens of very respectful e-mails from people who say nothing but wonderful things about the “Pittsburgh of the South.” Indeed, their biggest sticking point was that most Birminghamans don’t call it that. I was very careful last week to make it clear that I was merely recounting my experience. I have no doubt that Birmingham has all sorts of charm I wasn’t exposed to. Your real gripe is with the people I met there. I will send you all their names and home addresses. You do whatever is appropriate.

Then there was my assertion that Return of the Jedi was a commercialized disgrace. I do not have the time to go through all the reasons, but for those of you interested in a fuller discussion I recommend the appendix in the Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium by Ted Edwards entitled, “50 Reasons Why Jedi Sucks.” I don’t agree with everything he writes but it’s a pretty good list. I will give you some of my own reasons:

1. The Ewoks were ridiculous creatures designed for McDonald’s giveaways.

2. How did Luke become a Jedi knight when Yoda insisted his training wasn’t over?

3. Did we really need a slap-stick death of Boba Fett?

4. The battle of Endor was pure Disney.

5. The dialogue, the music, the ending.

But don’t get me wrong. Jedi was a disgrace in the same way that Godfather III was — only in comparison to the previous two.

The next geek-assertion was that the holodeck has ruined Star Trek.. It makes no sense technologically; it indulges the actors to do “serious” acting, which implies they are embarrassed to be on the show; and it routinely creates sentient people with unique human personalities. Meanwhile, Data is supposed to be the apex of Federation technology and the guy has no emotions and can’t use grammatical contractions. Also, if Geordi can see the full spectrum of light, X-ray, ultraviolet, etc., how come the holodeck people look real to him? If they look real to him, well, they’re real. I’d defend my assertions further, but nobody has written in with anything really intelligent contradicting me.

And finally, now that we have polling technology up and running we can get back to really pressing issues. What is the sweatiest movie ever made? Every day this week I will announce another nominee or two. And on Friday we will let you decide. Nominations are drawn from your e-mails and my own indisputable expertise.

So to get the ball rolling, here are the first two nominees: Cool Hand Luke and Body Heat.

The Jonah Poll What is the sweatiest movie ever made?

Cool Hand Luke

Body Heat

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