ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE

Reviewing Entertainment Weekly interviews with the candidates, Marc Ambinder expresses surprise that

In some ways, Obama has the tastes of a 72 year old man; McCain has the tastes of a 47 year old whippersnapper. Who knew?

At risk of sounding cynical, why should we be surprised when Obama associates himself with Dick Van Dyke and McCain associates himself with Usher? Isn’t this what candidates often do in interviews – try to address potential vulnerabilities and convince more people that they’re more like them than they realized (that is, when they’re not focused on doubling-down on their perceived strengths)? That the guy smeared as a secretly foreign terrorist fist jabber touts an old white guy and the really old white guy who can’t use a computer touts a young R & B artist seems to make a lot of sense. Same reason around election time we often hear more from Democrats about their love of guns and Jesus and from Republicans about their love of Black people and the environment.

Updated (8/25/08) to correctly identify Usher’s musical genre, though not in time to avoid looking to Alek like an elderly white guy.

OY

I didn’t expect Fox News’ attempt to ape The Daily Show to go well. But there’s no way I could have expected it to be this bad.

Try to laugh. Believe me, I did. Try, that is.

THE THOUGHT POLICE STRIKE AGAIN!

Check out this graph from the NYT review of 24:

But “24” also jukes to the far side of political correctness and even left-wing paranoia. In two different seasons, the villains seeking to harm the United States are not Middle Eastern terrorists but conspirators directed by wealthy, privileged white Americans: in the second season, oil business tycoons tried to set off a Middle East war, and last year, Russian rebels turned out to be working in cahoots with a cabal of far-right government officials.

Then riddle me this: In how many places in America are you likely to avoid criticism/ seem more enlightened/ charm those hated liberal professors/ earn a glowing profile from those hated liberal journalists/ make friends by suggesting that what look like terrorist attacks by foreign enemies are really engineered by big business and/or the GOP?

Not many.

Which just goes to show how vapid a term “politically correct” is. It serves two related purposes: first, to reinforce an idea that the left is made up of rigid illiberal thought police; and second, to earn awful ideas consideration from reasonable people on the grounds that to dismiss them out of hand would be politically incorrect.

I once watched an episode of Politically Incorrect where someone suggested bombing all the Arab countries in order to scare off terrorists. He then said something like “Don’t ignore my idea just because it’s not politically correct.” The reason to reject that idea is that it would be unjust and calamitous. The irony is that when Politically Incorrect got booted off the air, it wasn’t for taking on a sacred cow of the left.

The term was popularized in the first place by Dinesh D’Souza. Then he wrote a book arguing that racism is merely “rational discrimination” by whites with a justified fear of “black cultural defects.” Then he got hired as a political analyst by the supposedly all-too politically correct CNN. For his next trick, he’s written a book arguing that conservatives can best discourage terrorism by allying themselves with radical mullahs against gay parents and women who have abortions.

But don’t dismiss his ideas out of hand! That would be political correctness.

LET SORKIN BE SORKIN

Alek puts together a semi-authoritative list of Aaron Sorkin’s latest pilot’s borrowing from his earlier work and his recent life, and a check-list of the borrowings yet to be:

So, what’s missing? We need a character whose parents split up after a long time, preferably because the father had a prolonged secret affair. We need something to be, sarcastically, a “barn burner,” and we need someone to ask if you’ve fallen on your head. We need a season one finale that will actually answer the question “What Kind of Day Has it Been?” We need a character whose younger sibling died, and who blames him/herself for it in a repressed way. We need legs that go all the way to the floor, and Shakespeare the way it was meant to be played. We need to make someone happy by coming home at the end of the day. We need someone writing a letter because something that was supposed to have ended (tennis match, filibuster), is going on way too long. We need someone “raising the level of debate.” We need smart people who disagree with you. We need a fight over the supposed significance of an anniversary. We need, when the fall is all that’s left, for it to matter a great deal, and we need to know that the fact that we want to please you, pleases you. We need underwear in an inappropriate place. We need you not to talk to us like we’re “other people.” We need someone complaining about the lack of admonishment from the clergy over religious violence. We need people accidentally saying the wrong word to someone important, then obsessing over it. We need Josh Malina.

Of course, when you’re as good as Aaron Sorkin, we let you get away with it.

There’s no way I would have been watching The West Wing this season if not for a perhaps perverse sense of loyalty to what it was back when it was Aaron Sorkin’s show. The writing, as many have observed, has tanked, and everything else has gone down with it. Tonight, however, may have been a new low. Whereas Sorkin could actually (and did) make the census riveting television, this season’s writers have made the policy discussion so dry and so trite that the one clever line of the show was when Leo responds to the President’s monologue by asking the others whether they were taking notes. And the character development may actually be worse. It was only in the last minutes of the episode, however, that I was offended in a way I can’t remember ever (despite often coming down pretty far to the left of the positions advanced there) being offended by the show.

President Bartlett has rightfully chosen to take a strong stance against mandatory minimums in drug sentencing and has commuted the sentences of thirty-some first-time non-violent drug offenders stuck with outrageous sentences under mandatory minimums. After the State of the Union, he’s introduced to a Black woman who’s one of the thirty-plus just released and expresses her gratitude. At this point Bartlett launches into a lecture on how lucky she is to be getting a second chance, how dire the consequences if she screws up again, how much the futures of other prison inmates are riding on her behavior, and how important it is that she appreciate her freedom. The sight (fictitious or not) of a white Nobel Laureate/ US President born to privilege taking the opportunity of having taken small steps towards ameliorating awful, punitive, and racist policy lecturing a Black woman who’s just made it out of years of humiliating and unjust punishment for a non-violent offense on how grateful she should be to him and how if she played by the rules he might be more magnanimous to others of her kind was offensive to the point of being difficult to watch. And that the woman simply smiles, blushes, and thanks him again for his kindness is absurd. I expected better.