Sunday, October 23, 2011

Movie: The Ides of March

I enjoyed this movie, but not quite as much as I expected to.

Regular readers know that I have become a fan of New York Times movie reviewer A.O. Scott, who seems to me both insightful and on target most of the time. He - I just checked, he is indeed a he - goes off target only when lefty politics come up, and then his NYT blinders come out. This review is no exception, as he writes:
Morris [the movie's fictional new class democrat dream candidate played by George Clooney, who claims that his religion is the constitution but whose every policy proposal is unconstitutional on any reasonable reading of that much-abused document], locked in a battle for the nomination with a colorless (and barely seen) Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is a bit of a cipher, or perhaps a symbol. He stands for an ideal of political charisma that the film, directed by Mr. Clooney and based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, sets out to tarnish. And yet it seems doubtful, after more than a decade of scandal, acrimony and bare-knuckled media brawling, that this noble fantasy exists anywhere but in the minds of writers and actors who look back fondly on the glorious make-believe administrations of Henry Fonda and Martin Sheen.
In fact, what I think is stunning about the American political scene is just how much of the electorate, including much of the chattering classes, still does fall in love with the politician of the moment, whether red or blue, despite all of the evidence that suggests the idiocy of doing so. One needs only refer back to 2008, and the hordes of aggressively naive and idealistic Obama supporters, to realize the falsity of Scott's empirical claim. Yes, many of those folks now feel hungover and regretful of their one-campaign stand, shocked to discover that their one-time hero is actually a Chicago politician (who could have known?), who really didn't mean that stuff about peace and transparency and chilling out the drug war and all the rest. I read the movie as reflecting this sort of still-raw disillusion with Obama, which is a very different reading than Scott's.

In any case, recommended, if only for some excellent acting, and a healthy does of realism about American politics.


Dan said...

I really have to disagree with the whole "Obama is a letdown" thing. Instead of listing my own reasons, I'll just let a conservative do it:

And either to show that I'm not in love with Democrats (despite choosing to support them in about 80-90% of elections) or to give you other links to post, or both, this angers me greatly:
and so does this: (read Stephen Lange Ranzini's comment, he's president of University Bank and he's always right on)
and those are just from today!

econjeff said...

A couple of thoughts about Obama. First, it is important to think about counterfactuals. Many of the items on Sullivan's list would have happened with McCain as president so I am not sure points are merited. I am sure, for example, that we would have had an extra-legal intervention in Libya under McCain. Despite the happy ending, I do not count this in the plus column. It just proves that the blue team can start military actions without congressional approval that do not serve any vital (or even half-way vital) national interest just like the red team people can. Oh joy. While the health care reform could have been worse, it could have been a lot better too. Much of the stimulus was pork and payoff, rather than thoughtful (and immediate) increase in aggregate demand, etc. Not mentioned in the column are all the deportations of undocumented immigrants, the on-going war on (certain) drugs, which is now destabilizing Mexico, the raids on medical marijuana shops in the US, the lack of transparency and all the rest. Is Obama's the worst presidency ever? No, I doubt anyone will ever beat FDR on that. But is it below the median. Yeah, probably. Also, I don't think conservatives consider Andrew Sullivan one of their own any more. He is pretty regularly mocked on instapundit for example.

Dan said...

Probably a lot of stuff would have happened with McCain, but a lot wouldn't have. Also, for most of those issues that you think Obama should do better on, it seems that you would prefer that either he, or the median representative and/or senator, would be closer to Barney Frank and farther from John Boehner. Transparency actually seems to be quite high relative to other administrations (or even on an absolute basis).

If you think he's below the median, and that FDR is the worst ever, I'd really be interested in seeing your rankings of 20th and 21st century presidents.

I maintain that Andrew Sullivan is a conservative, and just because Republicans dislike him and David Frum doesn't mean that they're not.