September 27, 2015 · 4:57 pm
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 →
September 7, 2015 · 11:51 pm
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 →