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The Democrats’ Shrewdly Boring Show

The Democrats might well be pursuing a sensible political strategy, but from a television programmer’s point of view they simply have no idea how to put on a reality show. Saturday night’s debate, carefully scheduled against football games and other more compelling fare to make sure no one was watching, is a perfect example.
We had high hopes for the episode, given the intriguing plot twists that had somehow seeped into the news prior to the broadcast, but they were quickly dashed by a group hug reminiscent of the final “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Those who are still following this yawn-fest already know that someone on the campaign staff of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the plucky David character in the tale, had been caught reading confidential material on the computer system of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plays the role of Goliath in this all-too-familiar storyline. There was briefly some uncharacteristic acrimony, with Clinton likening the incident to the Watergate break-in, and Sanders grousing that the Democratic National Committee’s threat to deny him access to the party’s voter records was just its latest attempt to sabotage his upstart campaign, but it all ended with Sanders’ groveling apology for the fired employee’s actions and Clinton’s magnanimous forgiveness. If the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of Wherever or the Republican Party behaved so wussily their reality shows would have been cancelled several seasons ago, but somehow the Democrats always get renewed.
To those who have been following the more action-packed cage match that is the Republican primary, it all seems unaccountable. There are plausible reports that the Sanders staffer inadvertently wound up with access to the DNC computer, which is apparently about as fool-proof as that Obamacare web site or the unsecured and illegal e-mail server that Clinton used for all her diplomatic electronic correspondence as Secretary of State, so Sanders had some pretty good spin if it he’d been willing to use it. He’d already declared that he was “sick and tired of hearing about her damn e-mails,” and of course he’s not going to make any more general complaints about the Democratic party’s apparent high-tech incompetence, but still, it’s hard to imagine even the most genteel of the Republicans passing up such a golden opportunity.
Even the viewers who are still rooting for Clinton will admit that she’s thoroughly dishonest, corrupt, ruthlessly amoral and entirely self-interested, just like all the most popular characters on all the reality shows, and just like all the ones who are the last to be kicked off the island or wind up with the hunky bachelor, and Sanders strategy of ignoring those unpleasant facts are hard to explain. Sanders is an unmitigated kook whose only domestic policy is to rip that goose wide open and grab all the golden eggs and whose foreign policy is to pretend that people aren’t trying to kill us, but at least he’s honest enough to concede that he’s a socialist and there’s little doubt he actually believes all that nonsense he spouts, which is pretty refreshing these days and is no doubt the source of Sanders’ limited appeal. He should pressing that advantage rather than retreating with an apology, and exploiting the plain fact that the Democratic Party is indeed thwarting the democratic process on Clinton’s behalf.
Sanders probably spends more time with Democrats than we do, so perhaps he’s correct in assuming they’re not quite so fed up with their party’s leadership as the Republicans clearly are with their own, but he’d surely benefit from stirring that pot at least a little bit. He’s probably also right that his supporters don’t regard Clinton with the same seething hatred that Republicans have for her, or for their own inter-party opponents, but given that Clinton is nearly as far left as he is his only advantage is on the character issue. A Democratic Party that demonizes wealth in general and Wall Street in particular and is suddenly more concerned with climate change and student debt and a “culture of rape” and “Black Lives Matter” than terrorism is expected to nominate a woman richer than Romney with a war chest of Goldman Sachs donations who flies around in private jets and charges universities $300,000 for a half-hour speech and enabled her husband serial sexual assaults and supported his mass incarceration and other tough-on-crime stances. That’s all Sanders has, given that Clinton is pretending to be as far left as he is, and it’s the reason he’s ahead in New Hampshire and within shouting distance elsewhere, and if he’s too high-minded to address this crucial point, just as he’s too high-minded address himself to that radical Islamic terrorism thing, there’s really no reason for him to stay in the race.
The obvious conspiracy theory for the right, which at least imbues some interest in the Democrats’ boring race, is that Sanders is only following the pre-written script needed to fill the obligatory time in a contracted-with-the-networks show about a supposed democratic process. By now it’s starting to seem plausible, but we do find him quite convincing in the role, and we know from countless conversations that his supporters are entirely on board. They’ll all glumly switch to Clinton if she wins, but only for fear of whatever crazed right-wing monster those hated Republicans come up with, so we think there’s still a chance of an embarrassingly real race, and that in any case Clinton will not emerged unscathed.
No matter how gentlemanly the Vermont socialist treats the former First Lady, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is continuing to look into that unsecured and illegal e-mail server of hers, and her assurances that none of her classified communications were breached by China or Russia or the surprisingly savvy IT guys in ISIS are surely undermined by the revelation that some stoned hippy-dippy staffer on the Bernie Sanders campaign was reading her campaign’s most cherished voter information, and sooner or later even the most compliant press will be forced to write something about. Whatever crazed right-wing monster the Republicans come up with will say that’s no lady, that’s Bill Clinton’s wife, and make sure to spend enough money that the matter will be brought to the public’s attention. Throw in all the subpoenaed e-mails that demonstrate how Clinton didn’t know how to use e-mail, and her public excuses about not wanting to use multiple devices and not knowing what “wiping a server” means or any of that other newfangled gadgetry, and of course that famously failed Obamacare web site, and at the very least she’ll look rather out-of-date.
Dishonest, corrupt, ruthlessly amoral and self-interested are one thing, but out-of-date is also the death knell for reality show star. If the Republicans can come up with a crazed right-wing monster who somehow managed to stay on the island didn’t get fired by the the star of “The Apprentice,” the Democrats would probably do well to go with that apologetic Bernie guy.

— Bud Norman

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Hacking Hollywood

Hollywood holds little interest for us these days, to the point that we hardly know whose sex lives we’re ignoring, but we can’t resist reading about the information that was recently stolen from the Sony Corporation’s computers. None of it is at all surprising, and so far as we can tell there aren’t any of the nude “selfies” of movie starlets that the last big Hollywood computer heist revealed, but it is entertainingly embarrassing.
There’s really nothing embarrassing about being “hacked” these days, as all the big industries and even the White House have been victims of the newfangled crime, but one might have expected more of Hollywood. We had thought that all the top-notch computer talent was currently employed generating images for the latest “Star Wars” installment or Marvel Comics adaptation, and that surely such a tech-savvy company as Sony would be able to stave off the best efforts of the cyber-criminals, so it does prompt a satisfied chuckle that they’re not any better at keeping their memos out of sight than any other sorts of office workers. They haven’t yet programmed a computer that can come up with an original idea, either, and we are relieved to note that there are still some limits to all this technological progress.
The most gleefully reported of the purloined e-mails are those that show studio executives as every bit as the studio executive characters in the movies. Time Magazine was particularly outrage by an exchange between two backlot big-wigs, shortly after the president had delivered a lavishly complimentary speech to the movie on the occasion of yet another big-money fundraiser, jokingly speculating about Obama’s favorite movies. The gag was they mentioned only releases marketed to black audiences, and although they didn’t mention “Superfly” or “Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song” or any of the “Dolemite” flicks of the blaxploitation era, which we think would have been funnier, Time found it all distastefully racist. Another e-mail revealed some executive’s opinion that Leonardo DiCaprio is “despicable” for backing out of a role in an upcoming movie, which does not offend us. DiCaprio is so famous that we’ve heard of him, and a we’ve even seen him in a few movies that we kind of liked but not well enough to remember the title, and his acting wasn’t horrible even if it did leave us wondering whatever happened to the days when there were real movie stars, but we also know him as a jet-setting “global warming” activist and a celebrity guest at the Occupy sit-ins and other fashionable events, so we figure the executive is entitled to his opinion. Yet another e-mail has an executive gossiping that George Clooney has his feelings hurt by negative reviews, but we would likely be untroubled by that even if we cared much about George Clooney. Clooney was very good in “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and “Intolerable Cruelty,” both of which we enjoyed, and it gives us a hopeful feeling that a gray-haired man of a certain age can be still regarded as a sex symbol, but he’s enough of a Hollywood know-it-all liberal that we’re pleased to learn of his insecurities.
Creative properties were apparently stolen, as well, including the script for the next James Bond movie. This horrified the Fleet Stteet fellows at The Telegraph, who noted that the publicity had already revealed the title as well as the latest Bond girl and Bond car, but we figure that once you know the title and girl and car of the latest Bond the plot is hardly worth hacking. One wonders why the hackers, who go by the peculiar nom de cyber of Guardians of Peace, went after such stale material when they could have gone after a more scandalous industry such as journalism.
Largely ignored by the mainstream, but duly noted by the keen eyes over at Powerline, were the memos that revealed the publicity department’s eagerness to downplay any patriotic sentiment that might have seeped into a couple of new releases. One was “Captain Phillips,” a Tom Hanks vehicle about the U.S. Navy’s fight against Somali pirates, and another was “White House Down,” a thriller set in the titular residence, so one can well understand the department’s stated goal to “avoid American themes.” There’s a lot to dislike about Hollywood, and the fact that everyone there seems to dislike everyone doesn’t make our top ten list.

— Bud Norman

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia

We had hoped to take a day off from the Obamacare death watch, but the convulsions and rattling are simply too riveting and amusing a spectacle.
Wednesday brought not just one but two knee-slapping comedies as both Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the eponymous President Barack Obama both made hilarious attempts at defending Obamacare. Sebelius can probably said to have gotten the worst of it, as her appearance before a House of Representatives committee entailed questioning by anarchist terrorist Republicans with their crazed notions of holding government officials responsible for their actions, whereas Obama faced only another hand-picked audience of adorers during a speech in Boston, but both provided plenty of knee-slapping moments of comedy.
Poor Sebelius had to endure the inevitable “Wizard of Oz” references that are the bane of every Kansan’s existence, even though she grew up in Ohio and is a Democrat, and her day on the job only got worse from there. She was forced to concede that the computer program she had paid $634 million of taxpayer money for wasn’t working very well, and the best boast she could up with was that it hadn’t crashed. Shortly before she made this dubious claim the program crashed, and even CNN couldn’t resist the temptation to split its screen between the apologetic web site message and Sebelius’ earnest if understated claims of success. She was asked about the president’s oft-repeated promise that people will be able to keep their insurance policies “if they like them” and insists that it’s true, even as the president is in Boston admitting the undeniable and evenly widely-reported fact that for many it is not true. A Michigan Republican — apparently they do exist — asked some technical questions about “hot-swapping” and “end-to-security testing” and other computer lingo that forced to Sebelius to admit she had not idea what the hell he was asking about, even after spending $634 million of taxpayer money on it. She was also forced to admit she had no idea how many of the healthy, young suckers needed to subsidize the scheme had been enrolled, or that CNN had reported her website had been broken into by unknown but undoubtedly nefarious hackers. At one point, while being grilled about her own participation in the Obamacare insurance program, and offering a questionable, she was overheard mutter “Don’t do this to me.”
The softball questions sympathetically lobbed in Sebelius’ direction by the Democratic members offered little help, nor did an audience stacked with die-hard supporters offer Obama much help as he touted Obamacare in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. Despite a pep-rally atmosphere more suitable to a winning basketball team’s impending homecoming victory, Obama at last acknowledged that his oft-repeated promise to people who like their health insurance plan that they can keep it is only going to be kept for the “vast majority” of Americans. Given that Obama’s 52 percent of the 2012 vote was hailed as a vast majority this means that as much as 48 percent of the country could wind up losing its policies, but whatever the number the president was quick to insist they were lucky to have him watching out for them. All those cancelled policies Obama was forced to acknowledge were the fault of “bad apple” insurance companies, he said, and all those forced onto the non-working web site to find a new policy had “substandard” insurance that the government has helpfully nudged them to upgrade. The millions of people who were well satisfied with their coverage and will wind up paying more for less will be hard to convince that the government knows better than they do about such things, but one has to admire Obama’s audacity of hope in making the pitch. He also seemed to blame the whole mess on former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as he repeatedly likened Obamacare to the state health care reform that Romney had inaugurated as governor of Massachusetts, but the Obamacare moniker will be hard to shake.
The hardship and pain and premature death that will result from Obamacare are to take, but watching the geniuses who dreamed it up trying put a good spin on it is great fun.

— Bud Norman