Finished “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” It’s great. And depressing. And funny. His takedown of that barking nitwit David Brooks is tremendous. He’s dead-on discussing the class differences between conservative and moderate Republicans. And, finally, he’s even deader-on as to how all this happened — how the dwindling working class was abandoned not only by the right but by the left, too. The right, however, at least knows well enough to throw them a little fresh meat every now and then. I finished it over the weekend and spent the next several hours brooding and snappish — always a good sign. Writing ought to give you heartburn once in a while.
Excerpt here, if you’re interested.
Of course, the weekend’s other big wad of verbiage was Ron Suskind’s examination of our faith-based presidency. Talk about a heartburn-inducing piece of work:
In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ”road map” for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman — the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress — mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.
”I don’t know why you’re talking about Sweden,” Bush said. ”They’re the neutral one. They don’t have an army.”
Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ”Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They’re the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.” Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
Bush held to his view. ”No, no, it’s Sweden that has no army.”
The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.
This wasn’t presented as evidence that Bush is stupid — although you can draw your own conclusions about that, or certainly about the worth of an Ivy League education — but about his dangerous bullheadedness, which he describes as decisiveness:
This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker. Nothing could be more vital, whether staying on message with the voters or the terrorists or a California congressman in a meeting about one of the world’s most nagging problems. As Bush himself has said any number of times on the campaign trail, ”By remaining resolute and firm and strong, this world will be peaceful.”
Wait until you get to the part about the “reality-based community.” You’ll die.
I don’t want to bring you down, though! Fall is finally here — crisp days, crisper nights. I brought the potted rosemary in for its winter dance with death, which we avoided nicely two winters ago but nearly hit head-on last year. I can only pass along the lesson learned: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE, PEOPLE. Also, more water than you might think, but the sun is more important. If you don’t have a sunny southern window, you might as well kiss it goodbye today. I also retrieved the potted tarragon and put it in the same window, but I have no illusions about that. It’s toast, but maybe I can keep it alive long enough to do a little more cooking with it.
Now I smell like rosemary — they were big pots, required lots of wrestling — and they look lovely in the front window, with the lemon-yellow maple in the park strip as a backdrop. Why is the good part of fall so short? After Halloween it’ll be grim November, my birthday month, the Year’s Most Depressing (r). One reason I find it so is that not only is it my birthday month, it’s Alan’s and Kate’s, too (same day), which is followed swiftly by Thanksgiving (my actual birthday, this year), and then the holidays. I’m always a little relieved on Jan. 2, after which crushing depression sets in and I set about adding to my thigh’s fat stores.
But I don’t want to bring you down! After all, you didn’t have to endure “Shark Tale” this weekend, as I did. It’s always depressing to see a movie that appears to have been made by a marketing committee AND features one of your heroes (Martin Scorsese), making an ass of himself by being connected with such a stinker. Sharks as gangsters — huh. I also tired of the constant inside jokes. Maybe you thought it was funny that they cast Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore as the mobster’s right-hand man and named him “Luca” and made him an octopus (get it? GET IT?!?), but it just depressed me. Year after year for, what, eight years? Nine? Pixar has been teaching Hollywood how to make a kids’ movie that parents will enjoy in equal measure, and it’s so, so, exquisitely simple: The story is the most important thing, and it has to be honest. Is that so hard? It is not. You don’t need songs by Mary J. Blige and a million pop-culture references and stinky double-entendres. The “keep swimming” scene from “Finding Nemo” still moves me, but when the little shrimp in “Shark Tale” said, “Say hello to my li’l frien’,” my God, but I was…offended. I don’t want to think about “Scarface” when I’m sitting in the movies with my kid! What kind of person would?
Some Hollywood asshole, that’s who.
But I don’t want to bring you down! Take the title of this entry — Whassamatta U. I had to look it up; I wanted to get the spelling of Rocket J. Squirrel’s alma mater correct. Rocky and Bullwinkle — now there was a cartoon.
Late update: Forgot to add this, although everyone’s seen it by now, but what the hey, maybe you haven’t: Jon Stewart cuts out Tucker Carlson’s heart, shows it to him, then eats it slowly. Either transcript or video is worth the time.