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The Long and Short of It

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On the April 7 episode of her podcast With Friends Like These, journalist Ana Marie Cox and her guest, author and political commentator Thomas Frank (What’s the Matter with Kansas?), briefly digressed in their conversation to talk about Donald Trump’s sartorial habit of wearing his ties so long that he has to Scotch-tape the narrow end that isn’t long enough to go through the loop in back.1

That’s the how of the Scotch tape, but it doesn’t address the why of Trump wearing his ties so long.

Naturally, I point to writer-director David Mamet’s 2000 comedy State and Main, in which drunken town doctor and bow-tie aficionado Doc Wilson (Michael Higgins) promotes the following thesis to dissuade someone from taking his advice:

It’s the truth that you should never trust anybody wears a bow tie. Cravat’s s’posed to point down to accentuate the genitals. Why’d you wanna trust somebody’s tie points out to accentuate his ears?

I mean, think about it: This is a man who attempts to dominate everyone he meets with a weird, jerky alpha-male handshake that puts his counterpart off balance and yanks him toward Trump, in whose mind this practice — what? makes him appear stronger than the other guy? This flabby asshole who eats KFC on his private jet and doesn’t get any exercise aside from walking to and from his golf cart after hitting a 7-iron shot on the fairway? He’s precisely the kind of asshole who would want your eyes drawn toward his junk.

So yeah: Good luck keeping that thought out of your head next time you look at Trump’s necktie. Go with God.
1 It’s also notable that the ties Trump wears in all likelihood come from his own eponymous menswear line. I mean, they’re certainly not bespoke, but it’s his name on the back of each one. So why does this couturier, this clothes horse, this man of fashion not have his own personal neckties customized with the loop stitched a few inches higher to accommodate his preference for unwieldy length?


Written by Shepcat

April 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Movies, Politics

Tagged with

Reason to Believe

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I still believe in Barack Obama.

I still believe in him because he still believes in an America that is greater than any one person or any 1 percent of its people. He believes that we’re all in this thing together, and he wants to even the playing field so that we all have a chance to be better, to do better, to have enough opportunity to succeed and thrive, as individuals and together as a nation. It’s a vision of America that once was and can be again. It’s within reach.

That’s as simply as I can describe what was and will be again the best vote I ever cast as an American citizen.

Such a sentiment was dismissed thusly by a couple of men I overheard at a Starbucks recently: “Obama supporters tend to vote emotionally. Romney supporters seem to be more interested in facts.” I stayed out of the fray. It’s enough that my Obama-Biden T-shirt was likely what inspired them to strike up a conversation in the first place. Bringing people together: It’s what I do.

And yet everywhere I look, it’s emotion that drives most people who rail against our sitting president. Raw, venal, bitter emotion of a kind that seems to have checked any sense of reason at the door. These people who hate our president so much that they’ll vote for Mitt Romney by default rarely give me arguments, rarely present to me these alleged facts that those men at Starbucks were so sure are the meat of their political discourse. Instead I get bumper stickers, throwaway lines and mere rhetoric, plus no small amount of racism and birtherism, both subtle and overt.

And yet, in all this time, I’ve not heard one person say, as sincerely as I just said to you, these words: “I believe in Mitt Romney.”

Oh, plenty of people think he’ll do a better job of handling our economy, but they can’t provide facts and specifics. Because as of this writing, Romney himself hasn’t provided many. Most people are simply impressed enough by Romney’s personal relationship with money (without any real sense of how he earned it, for himself and for others) that they imagine he’ll know what to do with ours.1

Besides which, it’s not as if anybody on the right even really likes Mitt, let alone believes in him. Witness the way so many prominent Republican officials and candidates have recently distanced themselves from Romney after the surfacing of the catastrophic “47 percent” video.

It was only a few short months ago, during the long slog through primary season, that we learned how ambivalent Republicans could be toward the man who was nonetheless viewed as their inevitable nominee for president. Even after Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry dropped out of the race, and despite a sizable delegate lead, we endured two more long months of formal primaries because this man didn’t have enough actual charisma and political capital to finally drive a stake through the heart of Rick Santorum and lock down the nomination.

Rick Santorum!

All along, the Christian right was cool to Romney because so many of them feel that Mormons aren’t true Christians, but since he eliminated Santorum — a Catholic and the most socially conservative candidate since the Inquisition — they’re having to swallow hard, grin and champion Romney as the standard bearer of so-called family values in America.2

Not even Romney’s fellow Mormon and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — a superior candidate in nearly every way3 — could mask his obvious distaste for Romney, even while claiming to support him during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports.

So say what you will about us emotional Obama supporters. We’re still behind our man, because he’s brought us — all of us — this far against some pretty daunting odds and stonewalling opposition, and he’s working hard to take us even further.

He’s fought for equal pay for women and placed two impressive women on the Supreme Court. He’s fought to abolish Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He’s fought to improve health-care insurance for all Americans. He fights for our environment and clean energy. He fights for college students not to be crushed under the weight of loan debt and to make Pell grants accessible to more young Americans. He got us out of Iraq, will get us out of Afghanistan, and he made the call to eliminate our most hated enemy. The day he took office and inherited the Great Recession, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dove 330 points and closed at 7,949.09; today it closed at 13,596.93. And if the GOP was not singularly, petulantly focused on ensuring the failure of his presidency, he might pass any number of the jobs bills that have been proposed during his first term to put Americans back to work, including the Veterans Jobs Corps Act, which Senate Republicans shot down just Wednesday. (Repeat: Veterans.) Through it all, President Obama has kept his eye on the long game and managed to do it with a lot more grace and equanimity than any of us could muster under the same circumstances.

We don’t merely “like” our guy on Facebook or check off his name on a ballot because we hate the other guy so much.

Barack Obama still gives us reason to believe.

So how about it, Republicans: Can any of you honestly say you believe in Mitt Romney? And if so, why? I’d really like to know.
1 This “proximity to money” phenomenon explains somewhat why every few years some idiot stirs up a “Draft Trump” campaign. Of course, that idiot is usually Donald Trump himself, but the short-fingered vulgarian does have sycophants, so the rumors persist. Worth noting: Steve Forbes and H. Ross Perot weren’t able to ride their bank accounts into the White House either.

2 It made me laugh that Romney’s shout-out to “freedom of religion” was such a big applause line at the Republican National Convention, delivered by a Mormon to a crowd among which a significant number of delegates likely believe that their nominee belongs to a cult and/or that our current Christian president is really a secret Muslim. So celebrate that in your classrooms, to borrow a line from Aaron Sorkin.

3 Aside to the GOP: For your own sake you need to give up the Rovian pipe dream of a permanent Republican majority and stop stonewalling President Obama just because you want him to fail. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to govern and lead again instead of just trying so damn hard to win all the time, because your entire party is going to implode like a punctured bouncy house one of these days.

In the meantime, know this: a) There’s no shame in moving toward the center. It’s where we all meet when we want to come together to move our country forward. And b) If you really want to infuriate the left, throw your support behind a nominee whom we might actually think twice about before voting against him (e.g., McCain in 2000, Huntsman in 2012). It would drive us crazy if we actually had to choose.

Written by Shepcat

September 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with

Romney to the 47 Percent: Drop Dead

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If a presumptive President Romney ran the country the way Candidate Romney has run his campaign, we’d all be screwed. Because this man shouldn’t be allowed to manage a Denny’s, let alone the most powerful nation in the Western Hemisphere. As Charles P. Pierce opined recently in Esquire, Romney “could screw up a two-car funeral if you spotted him the hearse.”

There are dozens of valid reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney — among them his apparent disdain for diplomacy (“projection of strength,” he calls it, this man who fought the Vietnam War from the seat of a bicycle in France) and failure to demonstrate a grasp of the nuances of foreign policy1 — but we always seem to circle back, in one form or another, to how incredibly tone-deaf and out-of-touch he is.

Now Romney has perpetrated the prime example of that disconnect between himself and average Americans, the pièce de resistance, the ne plus ultra, his masterpiece, the mother of all foot-in-mouth campaign fiascos.

The issue of the moment isn’t simply that Mitt Romney, caught red-handed on video in a fit of uncensored personal candor, is conceding 47 percent of the vote, as it were, to President Obama in the upcoming election. If only that were the case, one might imagine that Romney and his campaign managers were cannily playing a complicated and fascinating game of electoral calculus, in which they throw out the known red states and blue states and the all-but-unwinnable swing states, and game the remaining 6 or 7 percent margin of error in one hand of stud for all the chips on the table.

But no.

Mitt Romney doesn’t gamble like that. He wouldn’t know how to. He’s never had to. Because Mitt Romney has built his professional résumé and amassed his personal fortune by playing mostly with house money. And it was the house money he was speaking to when he tipped his hand, unwittingly letting the American people know exactly what he thinks of them.

Don’t think you’re one of the 47 percent he singled out as the “taker class” in America? Doesn’t matter.

The point is that, if Romney is willing to write off — whether by electoral math or the decimation of essential programs to pay for his desired tax cuts — nearly half of the people whom he supposedly wants to lead, it’s only a matter of time before he decides he has no use for “the rest of us” either. You know: you people.

If he doesn’t value that sizable segment of the American electorate enough to make an earnest and specifics-laden pitch to them for why he will better for them than Barack Obama — how he’ll put them back to work, help put their kids through college, and help them save and invest for their twilight years — instead of bloviating in front of a banquet hall full of $50,000-a-plate donors that they’re a race of professional victims sucking on the government teat, then he has no real interest in governing the American people. As has been the case over the last two decades of Republican politics, Romney is interested in one thing only: winning.

It’s no secret that I have barely enough respect for George W. Bush to agree that he, like me, is a carbon-based life form. (For a refresher or to be brought up to speed about how little respect this amounts to, feel free to browse this blog’s archives between 2001 and 2009.)

That said, for all my personal animus toward and disagreement with the policies of George W. Bush, I can’t say that I ever sensed that he was disinterested in leading all of us. As heedlessly and dishonestly as he propelled us toward unjust, unjustified and costly wars, I concede that he truly believed he was serving and protecting us all in the only way his jingoistic, guns-a-blazin’, Saturday-matinee cowboy mind could wrap itself around, that he wouldn’t have taken lightly any collateral damage that should happen to befall any American citizen in the war on terror, regardless of their location along the ideological continuum.

That’s an extreme example — it would have to be, if I’m actually giving props to George Bush. And yet, from an economic standpoint it’s just what Mitt Romney is saying here: He plans to make matters worse for the 47 percent of Americans he classifies as “takers,” to allow them to be the collateral damage in an economic policy whose net gain would be to cut taxes on the upper class while making the lower classes (including minimum-wage employees, single working moms, students and seniors) pay for them by giving up many of the social safety nets they require just to make ends meet.

Romney has already written off the vote of the 47 percent, and he apparently doesn’t care about their fate (at least not enough to treat them as equal citizens). He doesn’t have to, unless he can actually follow through on creating the jobs that will make them all more productive members of whatever society looks like when viewed through the prism of privilege and wealth. In Romney’s own personal experience, however, the companies he salvages don’t have to become success stories in order for Mitt and his compatriots to end up in the black.

Think of it as a leveraged buyout on an epic, national scale. Mitt already does. He must, because if unemployment is still stagnating at 8 percent even after the extension of the fabled Bush tax cuts, why should anyone believe that the so-called “job creators” in this country — the ones who trim their budgets and boost their bottom lines by cutting pensions and shipping jobs overseas — will step up to move America forward any more than they already have if they’re given another government handout. (See what I did there?)

In doing so, Romney is doubling down on the failed “trickle down” policies of Ronald Reagan, which bear their fair share of responsibility for having created the wealth disparity we have today. And when gutting the 47 percent fails to do anything but add trillions more to the deficit, rest assured that President Romney will come calling on the other 52 percent of us before he ever asks a sacrifice from the 1 percent that stands atop the pyramid.

Because if there’s one thing Mitt Romney understands, it’s that you’ve always got to repay the house money, no matter how many people you have to screw to do it.
1 Though it remains to be seen whether his strident pronouncements aimed at Russia, China and Iran and his persistent attacks about the president’s “apology tour” represent an attempt to score cheap political points or a true indication that a Romney presidency intends to move to the far right of Dick Cheney. It’s always the guys who had all the deferments when they were eligible to be drafted, isn’t it?

Written by Shepcat

September 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Politics

Day 100

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It’s an arbitrary milepost that amounts to less than one-fifteenth of his first term, so right now there’s no way of knowing whether Barack Obama will go down in history as a great leader, a failed one or merely a mediocre one who didn’t quite attain all the lofty goals he set for his presidency.

Has it been a perfect 100 days? No. Have I agreed with everything the Obama administration has done so far? No. Has the business of the nation proceeded as smoothly as possible? Heavens, no. Do I occasionally question the wisdom behind some of the decisions made at the top? Of course.

I will say this, though: One hundred days isn’t quite enough time to get me past the night terrors of the last eight years, either, but I still feel a little surge of giddiness every time I hear the words “President Obama.”

Barack Obama is already the statesman America deserves, and though his detractors may still dismiss him as a “rock star” and a “fad” whose glamour will fade as soon as the going gets really tough, the fact remains that he has already improved our relations with our allies by the virtues of his intelligence, focus and charisma, and he has set the tone for improved relations with our antagonists and enemies by addressing and engaging them in the spirit and tone of actual diplomacy instead of cowboy bravado.

The greatest difference, however, may be the manner in which he addresses the American people. One of the things that most infuriated me about George W. Bush was his habit of squinting down over the podium after one of his pronouncements, a quizzical look on his face that read, “I can’t believe you people don’t unnerstan’ this.” (The subtext, of course, being, Why, hell, they just ’splained it to me a half-hour ago an’ it makes perfect sense to me now.)

Obama, on the other hand, seems to treat every question he is asked as though it is the most important one he’ll be asked all day. His responses are measured and thoughtful, and though he is at times long-winded, it is not the sort of circuitous rambling that was Sen. John Kerry’s liability during his 2004 presidential run. (I admire Kerry greatly, but listening to him respond to questions back then was often like watching Phil Mickelson putt: “Get there… Get there…”) Obama, by contrast, already knows where he’s going when he speaks, and he wants to take us with him. It is becoming almost a cliché at this point, a verbal tic that now belongs to Fred Armisen’s impersonation of the president on Saturday Night Live, but I find it invariably comforting to hear President Obama preface any remark with “Now let me be perfectly clear…”

One hundred days isn’t much time at all, but this much I already know: Barack Obama wants to govern, and he wants to lead. He doesn’t wield fear like a cudgel to keep us in line and the rest of the world at bay, but neither does he back down from telling Americans or anybody else what they need to hear. He’s the smartest guy in the room, and he’s surrounded himself with other smart people, starting with his vice president1. He hasn’t embarrassed himself — or me — yet.2 I haven’t for one moment regretted casting my vote for him. To those who say he’s taking on too much too soon, he seems to reply, “Well, that’s what you hired me to do, isn’t it?” He’s got big ideas and an honest-to-God vision for America, and if he fails, it won’t be for a lack of trying to achieve that vision.

Barack Obama has 1,361 days remaining in his first term, and I still like his odds.

1 Laugh all you want, but God help me, I love Joe Biden.

2 OK, that time I was talking about Obama, though.

Written by Shepcat

April 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with

Thank God Obama’s in the White House

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One more reason I’m grateful for our new chief executive is that there’s now a real chance for a meaningful long-term payoff to a scene that is likely to play out at dinner tables across the nation tonight. It goes something like this:

“Dad/Mom, I had a lot of fun spending time with you today and following you around the office/warehouse/sales floor/abattoir, so I hope you won’t take it the wrong way when I say that, after watching you at work and learning more about what you do for a living, I’ve decided that I’d really like to pursue a career in the arts.”

Written by Shepcat

April 23, 2009 at 10:21 am

Posted in Politics

1 vs. 178

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I’d like to challenge all 178 House Republicans to a street fight. Not a metaphorical one, either. I’m talking about a bare-knuckled, bottle-smashing, bicycle chain-swinging, Bronson-style street fight. I’m talking about soccer hooliganism on an epic scale. I’m talking about Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

I’m pretty sure I can take them, too.

You know how I know there are 178 of them?

Because they’re that much easier to count when there isn’t a single original thinker among them who’ll stand apart from the crowd. (They’re like the Redcoats that way, and you remember how we gave those guys the ass-kicking they so richly deserved at Yorktown.) Not one breathing soul among them has the stones to stand up to that feckless child John Boehner, whose idea of leadership is to band them all together like a cafeteria full of jealous, catty, bitchy little high-school girls who say mean things about the pretty new girl in the hopes that she’ll develop an eating disorder and transfer to another school.

That’s 177 people so desperate right now to matter to anyone — even if it’s only to the person who imposes his ineffectual leadership upon them — that not one of them will vote against the rest of them by daring to stand for something resembling an actual principle.

That’s 178 people who still behave as if they have a mandate, who still lead with their glass chins and their wounded egos, who still believe this is about winning, not governing. Even when they’re up against an insurmountable Democratic majority, they want to make it clear to the American public in general and Republican voters in particular that no matter what happens, they intend to stay the course. Their game plan will always be about winning instead of governing because, after all this time, it’s easier for them to identify enemies and opposing ideologies than it is to contribute to a solution or to let anyone else take the credit for progress. It’s about being so firmly entrenched in the house that you yourself set ablaze that you won’t accept the help of the fireman who comes to rescue you.

I’m not arguing that the stimulus plan is perfect, and I’m not saying that there aren’t Republican representatives who don’t have good and valid reasons for voting against the stimulus plan. I’m just saying, how can any one of those good, valid reasons be at all meaningful if it can be so easily trumped by the party’s lemminglike impulse to leap into the chasm en masse? How can any one of those representatives look like a visionary or a voice of reason if he’s going to ally himself with a bunch of people who will vote as one to save face instead of voting as 178 individuals interested in serving their constituents in their districts back home? How can any of those citizens believe their representative is looking out for them if he or she doesn’t distinguish him- or herself by truly representing them — and not his or her party’s unquenchable hubris — in the ongoing debate about our economic survival?

And that’s why I like the odds. That’s why me against 178 House Republicans is a mismatch like Uma against the Crazy 88s.

I’ll even let that pussy Boehner throw the first punch.

Written by Shepcat

February 16, 2009 at 10:22 am

Posted in Politics

Day One

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I am waking from an eight-year nightmare to a blinding dawn illuminated by hope.

I am overjoyed for all who thought they’d never live to see this day.

I extend my jealousy to every child who will grow up taking this day for granted.

I am filled with admiration for those who fought to make this day happen and those who fight still.

We were great once.

Time to be great again.

Written by Shepcat

January 20, 2009 at 1:18 am

Posted in Politics, The Nation