Alan and I went to the movies Saturday night, in another congressional district. Our stroll from parking lot to theater took us past a couple of yard signs for a candidate for something. I noted that I would be disinclined to like him based on the verb on his very simple signs: Not “vote” for the man in question, but “hire” him.
That one word tells me so much — that he’s likely one of those guys who thinks “making a payroll” is a core skill for the office, because running a plumbing supply house has so much to do with tax policy and balancing the greater good with constituent service.
I thought of that guy when I read Neil Steinberg’s excellent blog making the case against voting for Bruce Rauner for governor of Illinois. Like a lot of great writing, it starts out being about one thing, and takes its time getting to the thing it’s actually about, and makes you sit back and say, Of course. It’s hard not to break my three-paragraph preview rule with this one:
The Curse of the Amateur often afflicts wealthy men in late middle age. Having succeeded wildly in one field, their egos and ignorance are such they assume they can march into some other completely unrelated area and master that too. Henry Ford, fresh from his success at selling Model Ts, decided he would end World War I. He didn’t. Bill Gates, having made a fortune in software, decided to end the woes of Africa. He didn’t. Those woes turned out to be a problem bigger than money.
Can anyone glance at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and not recognize the Curse of the Amateur? Here’s a guy, 57 years old, who never ran for anything, forget being elected to any public office. He’s someone who has never performed any kind of public service beyond very recently, after he decided he would be governor and started suddenly funding schools and firehosing the money he has so much of this way and that and calling it civic mindedness.
So he campaigns. And his ignorance of, his contempt for, the job he would take on, is so great, that he presents his utter lack of experience as his most enticing attribute. It’s pure hypocrisy. Who can imagine that Rauner would accept that logic in his own affairs? Who believes that anyone could go to him and say, “You know, your Excelo Widget Company isn’t doing so well. I am uncorrupted by any sort of experience making or selling widgets, so am just the man for you to bring in as CEO.”
Yes, exactly. I live in a different state than Steinberg, but this argument is common in politicking these days, and it never fails to rankle.
(A side note to rant about autocorrect, which is starting to loom as a major factor in my writing life these days. For every time it spares me from having to stop typing and fix a few transposed letters, it leads me into dangerous waters in another area. For example, when I wrote “Neil Steinberg” up there, it changed the surname to “Sternberg.” WTF? Apple has an autocorrect that doesn’t understand proper names? This is pissing me off. That said, I’m sure there’s a setting that can be tweaked, and J.C. will write to inform me of it shortly.)
The movie we saw Saturday was “Birdman,” (which autocorrect just changed to “Birman,” grr) and all of you with an interest in art, theater, compromise, self-doubt and any related theme are encouraged to go see it. I’m trying to keep up with the Oscar contenders this year, rather than trying to cram them all into the holiday weeks and/or on-demand cable in February. Last week we saw “Gone Girl,” which I was surprised to like quite a lot — far better than the book, which had me eye-rolling and skipping pages by the final chapters.
The other day I mentioned my love of boxing, and a few of you shuddered. I hope you will put your bad feelings aside and read this great profile of Bernard Hopkins, still defending two of the four major light-heavyweight belts at the astonishing age of 49. This passage sums up what I’ve started to appreciate in boxing, why I watch on the Saturday nights that HBO or Showtime has a card going:
Unlike most other boxers, who train down to their fighting weight only when they have a bout coming up, Hopkins keeps himself right around the 175-pound light-heavyweight limit. Fight people marvel at the ascetic rigor that has kept him perpetually in superb shape for almost three decades, his habit of returning to the gym first thing Monday morning after a Saturday-night fight, the list of pleasurable things he won’t eat, drink or do. But to fetishize the no-nonsense perfection of his body, which displays none of the extraneous defined muscular bulk that impresses fans but doesn’t help win fights, is to miss what makes Hopkins an exemplar of sustaining and extending powers that are supposed to be in natural decline. He has no peer in the ability to strategize both the round-by-round conduct of a fight and also the shifts and adjustments entailed by an astonishingly long career in the hurt business. He has kept his body supple and fit enough to obey his fighting mind, but it’s the continuing suppleness of that mind, as he strategizes, that has always constituted his principal advantage.
Opponents don’t worry about facing his speed or power. They fear what’s going on in his head.
A great read.
The week upcoming is going to be a crusher, with the election and yours truly working around it. So I warn you of the usual holes, gaps and scantiness, but I’ll try. In the meantime, I leave you with one more take on Ben Bradlee, which you should read just to get to this passage:
Meanwhile, the Post’s op-ed pages — that hotbed of stupendously clueless commentary that was separated from the Outlook section in 2009 — prominently featured on the same Sunday a piece to warm the cockles of Hayward’s heart: a fire-breathing offering from former Hewlett-Packard head and indefatigable John McCain crony Carly Fiorina. This bold tocsin, titled “A time for businesses to stand up to activists,” derides climate change activists who have targeted corporate boards in an effort to jump-start action on global warming. In Fiorina’s fanciful telling, business leaders now cringe in fear before a disciplined cadre of “well-organized, professional activists intent on chilling speech and marginalizing the voice of business and job creators in U.S. society … Their attacks on business’ protected speech and political participation are intended to sideline the entrepreneurial perspective and silence the opportunity for nuanced policy discussions.” Never mind that a standing armada of industry lobbyists has kept progress on climate change legislation on total lockdown for the past decade.
Let me pose a follow-up question to Ignatius’ sermon. Why would Bradlee’s old paper publish such patently distorted, power-coddling twaddle? I know from bitter experience that op-ed shops at major papers routinely repurpose these corporate PR briefs in their pages because they professionally adhere to a phony centrism. They believe that responsible journalism is the equivalent of a cuckoo clock display, in which one side warbles at the other and then retires to await its next formulaic set-to an hour hence. How can we have a nuanced debate, after all, if the poor speech-challenged business and job creators who already bankroll the entire electoral process aren’t also protected from dissenting views in their boardrooms or on editorial pages?
And don’t forget to vote, if you haven’t already.