The critic James Wolcott is peeved. “Mitt Romney’s fateful decision this January not to pursue the presidency for a third futile time deprives those of us in the bleachers of a rare-ish opportunity to watch a representative of the 1 percent in plastic action,” he writes in Vanity Fair’s April “special issue” on “the age of money.” There are few chances, Wolcott avers, to observe in public a member of the financial and social caste that rules America. “It is not often we get to study how a scion moves, behaves, and simulates reflective thought under changeable conditions.”
Note: A few weeks ago, the backlash against the Oscars—the scourging of Patricia Arquette for her post-Oscars speech in favor of pay equality, the wailing over Graham Moore’s failure to be gay while considering suicide as a teen, and so much more—broke my brain. I started seeing problems. Problems were everywhere. So many problems! Too many to recount here, in fact. So I set up a tumblr! I’ll still continue writing this post once a week or so here. But if you want to keep on things that are problematic—such as The Dress and Back to the Future and White Dudes Trying to Write—then you should keep your eye on EverythingsAProblem.tumblr.com.
The “white savior trope” is one of the most confounding elements of modern cinema. It takes many forms—Kevin Costner trying to save a black child from being raised by inferior black guardians, Kevin Costner teaching a team of Hispanic kids how to run, Kevin Costner educating American Indians about how to defend themselves, etc.—but the idea is always the same. An enlightened, amazing white person sees something wrong with a minority and tries to fix said minority.
This is, needless to say, very problematic.
The Book of Esther has had a good week. It is, at the moment of writing, the Jewish holiday of Purim, an account for which the biblical Esther provides. Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews from a plot against them fomented by a faction of the ancient Persian Empire—which under current circumstances makes it an appropriate text for Benjamin Netanyahu to name-check, something he did speaking to Congress on Tuesday.
“I loved Spock,” said President Obama, reacting to the death of actor Leonard Nimoy. Why? Because Spock reminds him of himself. The galaxy’s most famous Vulcan, the president wrote, was “Cool, logical, big-eared, and level headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.” Just like you know whom.
The president is not the only writer who has drawn comparisons between himself and Spock. I am also a Star Trek fan, but I admit I was somewhat confused by my rather apathetic reaction to Nimoy’s death. And as I thought more about the president’s statement, I realized he identifies with the very aspects of the Spock character that most annoy me. I don’t love Spock at all.
The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.
The Wall Street Journal reported this past week that the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has quietly dropped its ban on foreign contributions and is accepting donations from the governments of “the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany, and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.” The Journal’s conclusion: Since 2001 “the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments.”
The authorization for the use of military force against ISIS that the Obama administration sent Congress this week is not worthy of the name. Its language is far more about what the president won’t do against the terrorist army that controls much of Syria and Iraq—limits on ground troops and a sunset provision for the authorization after three years—than what he will do. Congress should reject it.
And I had thought that Hillary Clinton was having trouble developing her message. In a single tweet this week she may have revealed the slogan for her 2016 campaign. Jumping on gaffes by Chris Christie and Rand Paul, Clinton wrote: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”
Darkness. A beat, then the following appears on the screen:
“A Scorsese Documentary on Bill Clinton Is Stalled”
—New York Times, January 22, 2015
Fade in on movie director Martin Scorsese—72 years old, white hair, bushy eyebrows, horn rimmed glasses—talking on the phone. As he speaks, the camera pulls back, showing him pacing in a nondescript conference room. Posters for Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Hugo, The Departed, Bringing Out the Dead, and Wolf of Wall Street hang on the walls.
Barbara Boxer has decided to spare the country further embarrassment and retire from the U.S. Senate in 2016. California Democrats need a replacement. As of this writing they have only one declared candidate: state attorney general Kamala Harris. Harris is liberal, modish, and a favorite of President Obama’s. But she’s not for me. My man is Tom Steyer.
Yes, Steyer took to the Huffington Post yesterday to say, “I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capital but here at home in California, and in states around the country where we can make a difference.” Really, though, Steyer owes it to us—more specifically, he owes it to me—to run. And if you and your friends demand his participation, I think we can get him to change his mind.