I had another idea for a blog this week; however, political debates happened and I got sidetracked by being surprised by, well, what happens when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Or, did you see what I saw on the debates last night?
It’s not my blogger job to be political. But I’m really political. No, I mean I’m really political. My entire family was political, especially my grandfather. You know the relative you keep hidden in the closet because all his life he misbehaved and was the black sheep. That would be my mother’s father. She wasn’t too fond of him. I wasn’t either but it seems my brother and father used to sneak visits to him in a downtown San Francisco seedy hotel and bring him a carton of Camels to smoke for his rest and recreation. Jake or Jacob was from somewhere in Poland, and no one knows exactly where. Nonetheless, he was a Jew who emigrated to Paris at 15 around the turn of the century and apprenticed as a pattern maker with a clothing designer of great stature. Yes, he was a prodigy. But he was a restless lad and got involved in the Communist party in Paris. You know it was all about the workers in those days – wanting to organize and get some rights from the big, rich fat cats who owned the means of production. Go, Karl Marx!
Jake was restless, so he hot-footed to Canada, first Toronto and then Montreal and joined the garment worker’s union and became a gung-ho, kick-ass labor leader. He never lost his communist roots and never stopped fighting. My parents used to tell me how they drove my grandfather to a communist cell meeting in Petaluma frequently. I asked them what they did when Jake was at the meeting. They said they went to a bar, got something to eat, talked politics and waited for him.
But my parents were very enthusiastic democrats. How could they not? It was the Depression and everyone in America was on the dole, struggling, needing help. So who became the savior of saviors? FDR (for those of you too young to recognize the initials that’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt). After the disasters of Coolidge and Hoover, FDR was a breath of honesty and caring. There was no 47% in those days – those, ug, workers who toil daily in at least one or maybe two jobs. Everyone but a few survivors of the 1929 stock market crash who were trust fund babies in NYC were part of the great unwashed. Everyone was looking for a handout, for a job, for food, for shelter. Joe Kennedy wasn’t even a rich man yet until he made money during the 20’s and 30’s from bootleg booze hauled in from Ireland or Scotland or wherever he could find alcohol. By the end of Prohibition he made a fortune and good old Joe painted a dashing picture in Hollywood escorting Gloria Swanson around town.
The first recognition of my democratic initiation was in 1952 during the Republican and Democratic conventions when Adlai Stevenson and Dwight D. Eisenhower were nominees. My family listened to the radio while driving through every state in the union that hot summer and I got my first lesson in politics. My parents were surprised that Eisenhower won. They were later surprised by how he turned out to be a decent president. The one political misstep was when my father lost his mind and voted for Dewy against Truman in 1948. He never forgave himself and thought Truman was one of our greatest presidents.
I watched last night at the screaming, angry, abusive, bloviating talking heads annihilating Barak Obama for underperforming against Mittens Romney’s etch o’sketch side show. I quickly flipped to CNN because I thought I was hallucinating. Same thing, different channel. Really? He looked unpresidential? Uninterested? Too professorial? Too wooden? Where was the anger? The outrage? The 47%? The “let them eat cake – go to the emergency room for healthcare” snide, cold-hearted reference.
My great friend, John Steiner, called me and said: “Joan, give me your reading on this debate because everyone hated Obama’s performance! What do you think?” I think they were angry butt heads who were so self-important that they had an opinion about every, single word or blink and they were insufferable and blew the whole event out of proportion. Al Sharpton said it best: Go to the content. Mittens flipped from the far right to center faster than a speeding bullet. The possibility of great Demo ads depicting what Mittens said during the debates and what Mittens said during the campaign to kissy face up to his contributors was priceless and has endless RP possibilities. It was so much fun to be surprised by this turn of events that Obama’s pained and exasperated expression reading “why am I here tonight” was icing on the cake. Truth be told, both nominees talked above and beyond each other and I really don’t think either one connected to the voters. Maybe that was a surprise in an of itself. But what Obama needed to be was to be a better debater. That was my surprise. I thought he was disappointing and not fun. It would have been more fun if had framed his arguments more cogently, gotten inside the sound bites Romney seemed to use so effectively and rephrase clearly what Mittens was trying to argue with logic. He needed to, in the words of Bill Clinton, ask Mittens to do the math.
I love to be surprised by life. What would be the point of everything going according to Hoyle. Okay, that’s an old, old saying but it simply means – staying on point or staying on script – and it’s overrated because it’s no fun and possesses no irony. Mittens hasn’t a shred of irony or humor. And the pundits called that style? Is that smirky smirk style? Humbly, I opine that those pompous pundits fell for his slickness because they didn’t see Obama take out his samurai sword and obliterate Mitten’s wooden responses. “Too bad!!!!” But what was Jim Lehrer doing there anyway? Did he have a function? Actually, the surprise was that he got the worst reviews. And I thought he was the untouchable media guru.
The only sad part is that Obama’s handlers are going to be fired because the pundits told everyone that Obama was bad and lost the debate and they told Obama to put on his presidential face and play the president and not the Harvard debater. I have visions of the new group of handlers marching into the Oval Office as the President looks up at them with his professorial face and says: “You guys got something to say to me?” Now that’s irony.