Thursday, March 13, 2008
Everything Is Under Control
There's a terrific movie from the late 90s that's been on my mind quite a bit over the past couple of days.
David Fincher's wonderfully creepy gem The Game had the misfortune of falling between the director's masterworks -- it was released after Se7en and before Fight Club -- and as such is now largely overlooked. For those who haven't seen it, the film stars Michael Douglas as an icy corporate baron whose perfectly self-structured life begins to unravel after his brother, played by Sean Penn, enrolls him in a mysterious "game," supposedly for the purpose of helping him relax. Douglas's character is initially told that he'll never know exactly when the game -- which has been specifically tailored to his personality -- begins. But what starts as a series of seemingly harmless pranks eventually turns sadistic and terrifying, with the main character running for his life, unable to tell what's real, what isn't, or how to make any of it stop.
The movie never fails to breathe with an uncomfortable sense of dread, despite the fact that its entire storyline -- every frightening twist and turn -- can be negated by the viewer with one single thought:
None of this is real. It's all part of the game.
Last night in Washington DC, Hillary Clinton prostrated herself before a gathering of black newspaper publishers, unleashing a torrent of apologies for recent comments made by Geraldine Ferraro -- the perpetually irritable former presidential candidate who until yesterday was an honorary member of the Clinton campaign. Over the past few weeks, Ferraro has regaled anyone willing to listen with her theory that Barack Obama owes his current political fortunes to the color of his skin, saying that if he were white, or a woman, voters wouldn't be paying attention to him. Although Ferraro has resigned her position with Camp Clinton, telling Hillary that she doesn't want to see the campaign damaged by unnecessary controversy, she's anything but contrite. Last night on NBC, not long before Keith Olbermann's brutal on-air denunciation of her comments, Ferraro arrogantly insisted that she was the victim of a witch hunt and that it was the Obama camp who owed her an apology. She's gone on to say that she's under attack for being white and that Obama supporters are attempting to violate her first amendment rights -- rights she plans to continue exercising now that she's gone Ronin from the Clinton campaign proper.
While I admire Ferraro's tenacity and refusal to offer up the traditional insincere apology, a firm spine doesn't necessarily prove the existence of a functional brain: What Ferraro said was astonishingly stupid.
But here's the thing -- it was also completely predictable.
Despite her well-deserved status as a trailblazer in politics, Geraldine Ferraro is one of the Beltway's most infamous loose cannons. She's a reliable fountain of bitter rhetoric and a stubbornly pious crusader for her own brand of logic. She's the political Terminator: She won't listen to reason and she can't be bargained with once she's acquired her target, whatever or whomever that may be. What's important though is that she's been this way for decades. Geraldine Ferraro isn't some untested neophyte with stars in her eyes and a blank slate for a reputation, and Hillary Clinton knew as much when she brought her on-board the campaign. Clinton was well aware of what kind of product she was buying from the very beginning -- and make no mistake, she got exactly what she wanted. Taking a page from her legal background, she implicitly allowed for a pejorative statement to be made in court that would sway the jury, but from which she could officially distance herself. Clinton now has the best of both worlds: An "evil twin" doing the dirty work -- raising the vilest of bullshit controversies to anxious voters -- and not simply clean hands but the added benefit of being able to play both ends against the middle by publicly repudiating the actions of the other half.
We've seen this before from the Clintons -- many times. It smacks of the kind of political opportunism and self-satisfied aren't-we-clever machinations for which they've become legendary.
There's the chance that I'm wrong about all of this, of course -- that Hillary Clinton gave no more thought to hiring Geraldine Ferraro than she would have to any other heavyweight ally, and that she was as repulsed by Ferraro's ridiculous comments as the rest of us.
But how can anyone tell anymore?
At this point, is it really so foolish to assume that everything we see is just part of the game?