Politics & Policy

The vice-tweeter, &c.

(Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)
On Mike Pence, Reagan-Bush, Bob Dole, Donald Trump, the Mooch, Kid Rock, a swimmer, a folklorist, and more

Every once in a while, I see a tweet from Vice President Pence, and this happened last week. The veep tweeted, “Thanks to the leadership of @POTUS Donald Trump, welcome to a historic day for American jobs in the American heartland.”

This struck me as a little … Soviet in nature. “Thanks to the Leader, grain harvest is up in the Oryol Oblast by 30 percent! The workers have never been happier.”

A glance at the veep’s Twitter profile lets you know that most of his tweets are like this, or many of them are. They are deferential to President Trump, and glowing about him.

Here’s another one: “Looking forward to chatting with @TuckerCarlson about @POTUS’ wins these first six months in office.”

“Wins,” of course, is Trump language: “tired of winning” and all that.

Loyalty in a vice president, or in any other person, is a good thing. But I often sense that Mike Pence is trying too hard, or too obviously, or too awkwardly. Is that because Trump excites a certain amount of fear?

Nancy Reagan used to be mocked for “The Gaze” — the adoring look she gave her husband, often during his speeches. Pence has a gaze, too.

I recall that Vice President Bush used to be mocked for his loyalty to Reagan. His habitual response was, “In my family, loyalty is not a character flaw.” During the ’84 campaign — in which Reagan and Bush were running for reelection — the veep said, “I’m for Mr. Reagan, blindly.” I believe he was mocking his mockers. I’m not entirely sure.

Anyway …

‐Mike Pence is mocked for referring to his wife as “Mother.” Well, once upon a time — at least in the Midwest, I can tell you — it was perfectly normal for husbands and wives, who were parents, to call each other “Mother” and “Father.”

In fact, Reagan was mocked for calling his wife “Mommy.” Often, if you wanted to imitate him, you said, “Well, Mommy …”

‐Speaking of vice presidents: Bob Dole was a near vice president, running with President Ford in 1976. He was 53 at the time. Why am I getting into age? Because Dole turned 94 the other day.

I was a Dole intern in the Reagan-Bush reelection year, 1984.

Arguably, Dole was the most important politician of the second half of the 20th century who did not become president — along with Hubert Humphrey. Dole was a vice-presidential nominee, a presidential nominee, Senate majority leader, etc.

‐Trump has been firing staff. I thought of a saying in sports: “You can’t fire the team, so you fire the coach.” The opposite is true at the White House.

What if the coach is the problem? Well, voters will have to figure that out.

‐When it comes to Anthony Scaramucci and his blue streak, the president’s spokeswomen are speaking the same language. Conway: “I think he’s passionate about the president. It sometimes gets the best of him.” Sanders: “Sometimes he’s a passionate guy. Sometimes he might let that passion get the better of him.”

Nicely coordinated. But in my view, there is all too much “passion” about this president. It is not exactly American. I think of Argentina and the Perón cult.

And how about “La Pasionaria”? She was a Communist in Spain.

‐Donald Trump is a celebrity. I mean, he was a celebrity before he ran for president. Yet the GOP is not famous for celebrities. Let me count my favorites: Cheryl Ladd, Bruce Willis, and Shannen Doherty.

Kid Rock is a celebrity: a rapper-rocker in Michigan. He is also a Republican. And he’s talking about running for the U.S. Senate. I would not bet against his being nominated. GOP voters are in that kind of mood.

Nearby in Minnesota, Jesse Ventura was governor. Before that, he was in the World Wrestling Federation.

And the Trump phenomenon has opened up new vistas. Some people want Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to run for president.

Think of it: The Rock in the White House and Kid Rock in the Senate. Rock on, America.

P.S. I have a cousin who once worked on a movie with The Rock. Said he was a total peach — loved and respected by all.

‐In Australia, police have foiled a plot to bring down an airliner. (Story here.) Good, really good. Yet I think of that old expression — that terrorist expression: “You have to be lucky all the time. We have to be lucky only once.”

Okay, then, may our luck hold …

‐Mandy Patinkin, the actor, was to take part in a play. But when this was announced, there was a “firestorm.” Why? Because he is white; and the actor he was set to replace, Okieriete Onaodowan, is black. Is the character black? I don’t think so. It was played in the past by Josh Groban, who is white.

Anyway, these racial scorecards are confusing to me. Because of the firestorm, Patinkin pulled out of the show. So the show is closing.

To read a news article, go here.

Last year, I wrote an essay called “Killing Aida: A mortal threat to art.” You can have identity politics or you can have art. One or the other. You can’t have both. One or the other has to go.

What a lousy pass.

‐On to something lighter. Did you see François Ruffin, in the French Assembly, with his shirt sloppily tucked? Oh, it’s great, just great. Go here.

A few weeks ago, wasn’t Speaker Paul Ryan under fire for some dress-code issue?

‐Let’s do a little language. I will ignore the Mooch for a bit. Let’s do something cleaner: Congressman Buddy Carter (R., Ga.), who said, “Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their a**.” I consider myself a connoisseur of the American vernacular, and even an exemplar of it (!). But I must confess, that’s a new one on me …

‐A man wrote on Twitter, “Thank you, @NewYorker, for finally answering the vexing question of how to spell the shorthand for ‘casual.’” It transpired that The New Yorker had “caj.” I do not spell it that way. If I saw “caj,” I would pronounce it like “cadge a cigarette.” For the first syllable of “casual,” I write “cazh.”

Nothing is entirely satisfying …

‐Shall we have a name? Caeleb. Not Caleb, but Caeleb — as in Caeleb Dressel, who I guess is the best swimmer in the world. You can read about him here.

And if you can swim faster than anyone else — you can spell your name however you want. (Even us slow swimmers can, true.)

‐Have you been to Galilee? The fishing village in Rhode Island? I have. Neat place. Across the harbor is Jerusalem. Jerusalem, R.I.

In Galilee, there is a bed and breakfast (it appears). It’s called “The Galilean.” Beautiful name. As you leave the village, a sign says, “Catch you soon!” (Fishing village, get it?)

In this state, highway repairs and the like are designated “Rhode works.” (Get it?)

‐Let’s have an obit — not from me, but from the New York Times, here. I will quote the first paragraph:

Roger D. Abrahams, one of the first folklorists to study the language and performance styles of black Americans as reflected in songs, proverbs and riddles both old and new, died on June 20 in Sunnyvale, Calif. He was 84.

It occurs to me that Professor Abrahams was lucky to have lived and worked when he did. Later on, he would have been accused of “appropriation” and other unpardonable crimes.

Do you know what I mean?

‐It’s not every day — not every Impromptus — that I close with a T-shirt, but let’s do it this time. A lady walked by with a shirt that said, “That’s a horrible idea.” And at the bottom: “What time?”

Have a great week, y’all.

 

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