Mark Levitt On “Casting The President”

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a lot of people might say they enjoy The Americans or Madame Secretary.The guilty pleasure of a lot of TV Viewers is reality programming. The current election is the most watched, hotly debated contest I can remember and the increased interest is largely because of the spicy reality style put-downs, bravado, and posturing.I think in large part people vote the same way casting agents pick actors/contestants to fill their roles

Sure people say they want someone to act presidential.  The assumption here is that voters want their president to be dignified and diplomatic. so casting the president, you would want to cast someone noble.  like a less stamery version of Colin Firth’s character in A King’s Speech. But What we know of politics though, high sounding on paper is largely full of back-room deals and soul crushing compromise. In addition People don’t admire presidents anymore, frankly they gravitate more to people who wield power work between the gray areas of the law like a Tony Soprano or a Walter White. People and the media say they want a high minded figure to stand for them but, in truth, who have they chosen to support them in the Democratic and Republican Parties?:  An ethically challenged businessman known for cutting deals and an opportunistic chameleon who seems to have spent the majority of her life in the pursuit of power.

Hilary Clinton reminds me of Alan Cummings character in Circle Of Friends- A creepy, fawning, opportunistic character who bides his time around for the chance to marry into the family business. To me Hilary Clinton has spent much of her political life waiting. Putting up with a husband who cheated on her multiple times, then serving a political rival she bitterly opposed all the while subverting her impulses till the time was ripe to seize political  power.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂

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Donald Trump is more like an Archie Bunker character with money. A man whose opinions seem largely formed by stereotypes,  raw social antipathies, and gut impulses.  whose base political stances often don’t really stand up to intellectual scrutiny…Quick to anger and to label, nevertheless he has an audacious personality that is as repellent as it is compelling and, like Archie Bunker, is also frequently funny.

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After the recent Republican debates,  the media largely condemned the coarse juvenile rhetoric. But I don’t find debate jargon elegant anyway.  It is largely full of trite, common speech and  its closer to the language of commercial jingles than lofty speech. For example when Marco Rubio recently rebutted Trump’s claims that the world was too politically correct, he  said, “I’m correct, I’m not politically correct.”.  This reminded me of the old Starkist slogan, “Sorry Charlie, we don’t want tuna with good taste, you want tuna that tastes good!  So,   its not Henry James or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow up there trading colorful turns of phrase exactly.  In ages past politicians might have spoken in a more lofty way because there was more of a separation between the classes brought out by the way they spoke. Now, politicians are more largely concerned with words that will stick in your head and hit a nerve than in being particularly eloquent. Similarly, Trump’s reliance on name-calling is a quick attention getting device.In  As anyone whose ever watched a reality show, talk show, or had a fight with their own family can tell you , when you call someone a name you immediately command attention:  ” liar”, “choke artist”, “con man”.  . It makes people stop and take notice. The name calling is  just an effective entry point. no one will listen to you a long paragraph where you intimate, subtly suggest or symbols which show how badly you view the other candidate. Its not like the viewing audience at these debates is honed and ready to respond to subtlety ( Ah,so, the Empire in Star Wars is a symbol for Nazi Germany, good one, George Lucas!, nice subtle put down of the Nazi Regime).

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Levitt’s Tees-Off On The Presidential Process

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The Debates (I think I rule!)-The debate format forces you to boast about your experience and qualifications. But my question is, are you the best proponent of yourself?  Its hard for you to be completely objective about your own strengths. For example A lot of people think they have a good sense of humor, are intelligent, have taste. But anyone whose ever gone on a blind date with someone you met online, though, knows The criterion for these characteristics is widely divergent and completely open to argument. In addition,anyone, despite how modest or negligible their accomplishments can, if asked, present a reasonably compelling narrative of their worthiness.  For example  “For the last 32 years I’ve managed to despite many obstacles; breathing, sleeping, finding food and shelter despite a very planet of other people striving to do the very same thing…in addition I’ve managed to not die, get over colds, avoid inclement weather by staying indoors, strived to find food and shelter for myself and my family and hold down a paying job.”  Every human being does these things but by listing them and saying them with conviction and suitable pauses for dramatic effect, you sound like you’ve really accomplished something.  Obviously, then since a debate serves in large part to tout your accomplishments, it does not favor those candidates who suffer from the egregious quality of humility.  How damnable that one cannot brag. They deserve to roast in hell for their lack of confidence. Surely, your lack of confidence spells your ultimate ruin! But how can you be truly confident you’d be a good president if you’ve never done it?  most skills after all do necessitate some amount of practice: guitar playing, learning a language, writing, acting, so why would someone have the confidence to KNOW that they would be a great president without any real presidential experience.  Sure Jeb was related to one and Hilary married one but, despite the questionable “talent by proximity theory” I’m not entirely sure how this proves anything except that it might take you a shorter time than a complete newbie to get up to speed.  sure, Its nice to have prior job skills as senator or governor)but as anyone whose ever been out in the workforce, skills,though somewhat transferable, between jobs, can also be  widely divergent depending on interoffice politics, new software, corporate stability,  dealing with adversity etc, new situations, hostile workmates) all play into the mix of success

The side by side comparison

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 Debates are also formats in which opponents are expected to compare and contrast their opinions and cast their opponents in unfavorable or ineffective lights.  In this case the candidates hand pick and string together a list of the their competitors worst faults: “Do you know that Jeb Bush often misses the bowl when he pees?!  Do you realize that you aware that he needed training wheels on his bike for 6 weeks before he could ride without them?! once got a d on a quiz in 10th grade Trig, Trig!  now if he can’t handle simple trigonometry how do you think he’ll fare as your commander in chief?!”. .. But my record speaks for itself, I never needed training wheels, was a whiz at trig, and now, as my wife will fully attest, can successfully pee in the toilet without extraneous spillage, right honey?”

Innapropriate displays of emotion-

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recently kasich hugged a supporter in a town hall meeting to provide consolation.  Pundits went crazy calling this a human emotion and lauding his decency.  But do we want our president to respond physically/emotionally to misfortune or offer offer practical solutions?  IE  do we want Oprah in the Whitehouse?  maybe some people say  they do what humans, not machines making decisions but I wonder what it really matters if casich is in touch with his feelings and not above a big bear hug.  In actuality, when will the man be called upon to “hug again”.  Not really sure there is all that much hugging in politics.  Coaches slap on the back, parents hug, friends high-five.  We already have people for that.  Politicians are supposed to shape policy.

Hilary Clinton- Vote for me…You owe me

 

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Hilary Clinton is the master of the wounded pride character.  She’s done so much for our country how come we’re not impressed? Every time I see her speak she seems to be sending out a subliminal signal, ”  Can’t you see how I’ve sacrificed?  Devoted my life to public service stayed with a man who cheated on me numerous times, for what? for what?  At times, She tries to hide her entitled, martyred feeling but, to me, it always seems to poke out at the wrong times and her face appears to be chastizing the voter for not dutifully supporting her. I think she’d win over more people if  She, at least, appeared to be grateful and not naturally entitled to votes.  This I feel, in essence, is at the heart of her waning lack of appeal.

 

Levitt’s Take On The Week In Politics

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Historically I have always hated politics and anyone who takes strong stances on anything outside their direct experience tiresome to listen to.  I do, however, enjoy the theater of politics.  I enjoy debates because, despite politicians being able to identify a problem and volunteer a solution (take an immediate and clear action, impanel a committee, make it a #1 priority on “day one” of their administration), usually the politician who is less objectionable cosmetically (looks at their watch less, takes more modest sips of water than their challenger, rubs their nose rather than picking it, smiles rather than grins, and pronounces the names of foreign leaders with more finesse than their competitors wins.

Despite my aversion to anything involving policy or the daily workings of government, even the casual observer does have to admit that it was a big week in politics.

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Last Saturday Bernie Sanders was mimicked and reduced to a caricature by Larry David on SNL.  Their similarity in voice and “rumpled-ness” of demeanor is hard to dispute and, consequently, the internet went bonkers in celebration and Larry David landed himself an excellent post-Curb gig. Soon, It got so bad that When Biden Suddenly dropped out of the race for president its quite possible that his thought processes went something like this:  “After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I do not believe in my heart that SNL has any cast member who is competent enough to impersonate me in a sketch. That show rises or falls based on its ability to nail its political satire. With me as a candidate, they have to settle with some second rater like Kyle Mooney trying to impersonate me…and that’s just not something I can, in good conscience, allow.”

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Later in the week we learned that former president George W Bush suddenly resurfaced to give his candid impressions of republican candidate, Ted Cruz.  “I just don’t like the guy”. In the coming weeks I also look forward to Bush’s other poignantly stated and randomly unsolicited opinions. like “Carly Fiorina…she looks like someone whose hair smells”

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This week we also learned that Jeb Bush finds the actress who plays Supergirl “Hot”. Creepiness aside, I think this revelation opens a door into Jeb’s unconscious desire to meet a powerful woman who will, like he said about his brother George W post 9-11,  “Will keep him safe”.

Lastly, we were witness to the spectacle  Hilary Clinton’s Bengazi hearings.  Through 11 hours of tough questions, it was reported that Hilary Clinton used the techniques of Yoga to stay relaxed. I wonder if she was able to mirror the practices of many Yogis who, through careful meditation and biofeedback, are  able to slow her heartbeat from 88 beats to 32 beat per minute  In that case, its quite possible that the former first lady was able to maintain a semi-conscious state broken only by certain involuntary motions of the body such as rapid eye movements and the noisy expulsion of gas.

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Right after the Benghazi hearing, Hilary appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and explained that the first thing she did after the hearing was to eat Indian food and drink beer/wine with her associates. Wow, who knew she could be that relatable! That is such a coincidience. After a tough 11 hour grilling from the Bengazi committee, I also like to kick back, flanked by my closest advisors, with a little chicken tikka and a good bottle of the ol’ Pinot.