Monday December 31, 2012

Alden Graves

Elizabeth Taylor once said, "There is no deodorant like success." Truer words have never been spoken, so I was steeling myself to see political ads announcing, "The star of ‘Gigli' and ‘Daredevil' is coming to a senate chamber near you!"

The best Christmas gift the country received this year was the news that Ben Affleck declined to run for John Kerry's soon to be vacated senate seat in Massachusetts, although the notion that anyone would seriously consider him as a candidate remains as chilling as a wolf howl in a dark forest. Mr. Affleck has suddenly become a hot property thanks to the wildly enthusiastic reception for "Argo," but I think that those of us stuck in the real world should be wary of what Hollywood regards as statesman material. There are president precedents.

Affleck won an Oscar for co-writing a popular piece of idealist hokum called "Good Will Hunting" in 1997. "Argo" is his third feature-length directorial effort. He did a solid job adapting an unconvincing Dennis Lehane thriller called "Gone, Baby, Gone" in 2007 and then answered cynics who thought the first film must be a fluke with a nasty little potboiler called "The Town" in 2010.

I saw both movies. I preferred "Gone, Baby, Gone" because Affleck wasn't in it. I haven't seen "Argo" and have no plans to do so because he is in it. I am in favor of any ploy that keeps him behind - as opposed to in front of - a camera, but he has never demonstrated the degree of skill for acting that is required of our lawmakers in Washington today and the cover boy good looks wear thin very quickly.


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Just ask Scott Brown.

Mr. Kerry displayed a touch with the common man that was just a little less tortured than Mitt Romney's when Kerry ran for president in 2008, but that might be attributable to the difference between marrying into great wealth as opposed to just inheriting it. The expensively-tailored aloofness might play a little better in a secretary of state. The office requires presiding over a number of lavish social occasions and what's a good meal without ketchup?

Kerry was the beneficiary of one of history's great slime jobs when, after winning a Purple Heart during his service in Vietnam, he dared to protest America's involvement in the war. People dubbing themselves Swift Boat Veterans for Truth objected to his testimony before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which Kerry detailed American war crimes in Vietnam, thus compromising the carefully cultivated image of the country's catastrophic involvement in Southeast Asia as an unfailingly noble, if slightly futile, thing to do.

Many people suspected that dominos should never have served as a basis for foreign policy and that Vietnam was a big mistake long before Kerry's testimony in 1971. The pro-war crowd didn't much like hearing it from someone who knew exactly what he was talking about, especially given the fact that none of them could offer any rational explanation - other than the aforementioned dominos - for the United States being there at all.

It was a rough year for the "my country right or wrong" faction. To add insult to injury, Jane Fonda won her first Oscar in 1971.

It seems unlikely, given the dismal outcome of the war in the Middle East that the country was embroiled in when the now infamous Swift Boaters scuttled Kerry's presidential campaign, that the general public will pay much attention to any hue and cry from them over the prospect of his appointment as secretary of state. Their campaign to defeat a decorated veteran in a misbegotten war half a world away helped reelect a man who couldn't be bothered to show up for duty in the National Guard in Alabama. Go figure.

Michele Bachmann had a nice year-end honor. Ms. Bachmann, who turned out to be a seedling as far as the American peoples' estimation of presidential timber was concerned, has been keeping a low profile lately. Of course, when you are referring to Bachmann, that simply means she has kept her mouth shut. She only squeaked by in her reelection bid to congress and maybe the prospect of relying solely on her husband's income as a quack psychologist tempered the inflammatory rhetoric a bit.

Ms. Bachmann won the WND's Woman of the Year award. (That's an "N" in the middle of the acronym, not an "M," although she's probably a good candidate for that honor, too.) WorldNetDaily, a right wing media organization, chose the Minnesota congresswoman because she is a "gutsy, pro-life fiscal conservative who dared to vote against raising the debt ceiling." They went on to praise her as a "God fearing, gun loving advocate of tax cuts and domestic oil drilling" - all those endearing traits that send the right wing into paroxysms of ecstasy, while a lot of others try to live their lives as God loving, gun fearing folks who are tired of subsidizing fat cats and watching the corporate rape of our environment.

Previous winners of the honor included Maleficent, making Ms. Bachmann the second cartoon character recipient.

The year didn't end so brightly for Sen. Michael Crapo from Idaho, who, after running a red light and thankfully not killing anyone, was cited for DUI in Alexandria, Va. Sen. Crapo had previously touted himself as a man who totally abstains from alcohol, so he became one of the few members of congress in 2012 who actually lived up to his name.

Happy New Year. Keep telling yourself that Obama won, so there is always hope.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist and reviewer.