Mark Levitt On “Casting The President”


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 🙂


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.


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).





Levitt’s Take On The Week In Politics


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.


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.”


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”


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.


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.