No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
T.S.Eliot, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock
Whatever one might think of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, she has earned the nation’s gratitude on at least one score. She has provided documentary evidence that government access and law practice don’t mix well together. The sycophantic supplication of Lanny J. Davis to his former law school classmate Mrs. Clinton, begging her to put in a good word for him for a profile in process by the American Lawyer, illustrates that horrible union. Continue reading
Filed under Law, Politics
With Hillary Clinton facing mounting trouble over her use of a private email server for government business, and with her favorability ratings plummeting, many Democrats have been casting longing gazes at Vice President Joe Biden. Some see Biden – with his penchant for embarrassing, shoot-from-the-lip comments – as the embodiment of authenticity, and the perfect contrast to the over-scripted, under-trusted Clinton.
Before switching to Biden, Democrats would do well to watch Zelig, the 1983 Woody Allen mockumentary about Leonard Zelig, a human chameleon with the strange ability to look and act like those around him. For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is her own person. She knows who she is and what she wants. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is a man seemingly uncomfortable with his own skin. Like Zelig, he adopts the traits of those around him. Continue reading
A surprise movie hit this summer does not feature superheroes or spies or cops. It stars two dead intellectuals, known for their prodigious literary output and their skill at oratorical combat. The Best of Enemies is a documentary about the ten debates in 1968 on ABC News between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal.
ABC News, the perennial third place ratings finisher back when there were three broadcasters, decided to gamble on a new format for covering the political conventions. Rather than providing comprehensive gavel-to-gavel coverage, the network offered just a few hours of coverage each night, followed by a debate between the two eloquent spokesmen for the Left and Right.
According to the movie poster, the Buckley-Vidal confrontation was an epochal event: “2 Men. 10 Debates. Television would never be the same.” A.O. Scott, in the New York Times, agrees:
There’s no doubt that the debates were a harbinger of cable-news shouting matches to come, as television journalism transformed itself from democracy’s buttoned-up superego into its snarling id.
Another commentator considers the debates “a turning point, the moment when the networks, the press, the pundits, and even average Americans first realized their taste for political bloodsport. A terrible beauty had been born ….”
The rhetoric evokes Alamogordo, as if the critics had just witnessed the first terribly beautiful mushroom cloud. Just what happened to justify such hyperbole? Continue reading
On October 5, 2014, a huge orange fireball illuminated Tehran. The explosion took place at Parchin, an Iranian military installation used for testing nuclear weapon triggers. Witnesses reported that all trees in a hundred-yard radius of two neighboring villages were burned, while windows in the capital were shattered.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that this same Parchin facility will be subject to inspection – by the Iranians themselves.
Under a secret side agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran, not the IAEA, will provide photographs, videos, and environmental samples of the site. The evidence will be furnished “using Iranian authenticated equipment.” In short, as two commentators have noted, the agreement leaves it to Iran to take an inspection selfie. The Director General of the IAEA will be permitted to visit the site but only “as a courtesy by Iran.”
Until now, opponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could marshal their arguments with some degree of respect for its apologists. Granted this was difficult, with the Obama administration insisting – falsely – that Israel was the only nation opposing the treaty, and implying – deviously – that domestic opponents were guilty of double loyalty. But the Parchin deal marks the point where tragedy turns into farce.
There is no historical precedent for such an arrangement. Or is there? Continue reading
On July 4, Kevin Joseph Sutherland, a 24-year old political activist, boarded a Washington DC Metro train en route to a holiday concert at RFK Stadium. Jasper Spires, an 18-year old college dropout, approached Sutherland and tried to grab his cellphone. During the three minute ride to the next station, Spires punched Sutherland until he fell to the floor, and then stabbed him 30 to 40 times. After a brief pause during which he robbed other passengers, Spires returned and stomped on Sutherland’s body. According to one witness, Spires “drop-kicked him in the head several times, like he wanted to kick his head off.”
When the car arrived at the station, Spires walked off. He dropped his camouflage pants and a bag containing his knife. He jumped a turnstile and left the station.
Hours later, Sutherland was pronounced dead at the scene.
This essay is not about Mr. Sutherland. It is about the ten passengers who watched Spires murder Sutherland, and did nothing. Continue reading
The New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has decided not to appeal the penalties imposed on his team for the so-called “Deflate-gate” scandal. That leaves Tom Brady alone to pursue his appeal later this month of the four-game suspension imposed on him.
We’ll get to Tom Brady in a moment.
But first, put yourself in right field with one out in the top of the ninth inning, a runner on second, and your team leading by one run. The batter hits a line drive your way, and you race toward it, diving, and landing over the ball — a fraction of a second late. You’ve trapped it. The runner on second, with an unobstructed view, sees the trap and runs to third. What do you do?
Sprawling on the grass, you hold your glove aloft with a wondrous “hey, look, I caught it!” expression. Then you get to your feet and throw to second, doubling up the runner and ending the game.
You’ve cheated. You know it. The runner knows it. Possibly most of the cheering fans know it. But as long as the umpire doesn’t know it, you are a hero. The opposing manager is on the field screaming, but his anger is directed toward the umpire, not toward you. If roles were reversed, he would have expected his outfielder to do exactly the same.
The detour illustrates a point. In sports, there is cheating – and then there is cheating. Much of what we call cheating is not only accepted, it is admired. Continue reading
The Americans, an FX drama series about a Russian spy couple posing as seemingly normal suburbanites in Reagan’s America, is the “best show” on television, according to the Washington Post. In 2013 and 2014, it was nominated for Critics Choice TV Awards for best dramatic series, best actor, and best actress. One critic applauded: “Not since The Wire worked its last corner has a drama series been as outright binge-able and richly satisfying.”
Well, cotton candy is outright binge-able and richly satisfying to sugar addicts. But no one would mistake cotton candy for serious food.
No one should mistake The Americans for serious television. Although co-stars Kerri Russell and Rhys Matthews — who are romantically involved in real life — deliver consistently compelling performances, the show is the television equivalent of junk food. Its depiction of the Cold War between East and West is worse than worthless; it is dangerous to the mental health of viewers, particularly the distressingly large number of young viewers who get their history from television. They will learn about as much about the history of the Cold War by watching The Americans as they would learn about the Ice Age by watching The Flintstones. Continue reading