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Politics is Down-Sewer From the Culture

On a slow news weekend The Washington Post tends to feature stories about contemporary popular culture, and they always make us feel old and out of touch. The paper’s weekly update about Saturday Night Live’s opening sketch mentioned someone named Tekashi 6ix9ine, along with actress Lori Loughlin, whose name we learned only after she was arrested in that big deal college admissions scandal, and lawyer Michael Avanatti, who of course is best known for representing pornographic video performer Stormy Daniels, whom we’d never heard of until she broke her nondisclosure agreement with President Donald Trump.
Judging by the Post’s extensive coverage, we’re apparently the only people in America who don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” and despite our lifelong literary bent it had not previously occurred to us wonder where’s the great millennial novel. The contemporary popular culture questions on “Jeopardy!” almost always stump us, and we can’t converse much with the under-40 set about anything but politics, sports, and the weather.
Our mostly disgruntled younger friends assure us that we’re not missing out on much, and based on our occasional and brief encounters with the contemporary popular culture we tend to believe them. We looked into this Tekashi 6ix9ine fellow — apparently that last name is pronounced “six-nine,” but spelled according to modern educational standards — and we’re told by Wikipedia that “His musical career has been marked by an aggressive style of rapping, while his controversial public persona is characterized by his distinctive rainbow-colored hair, excessive tattoos, public feuds with fellow celebrities, and legal issues.” Given all the great Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee and Hank Williams and Duke Ellington and Ramones records and other great American music in our extensive collection, we saw no reason to look any further.
Although we took a sociological interest in the big college admissions scandal we didn’t bother to investigate Loughlin’s work, as she’s apparently mostly starred in sit-coms and cable channel movies we’e never heard of. For reasons solely related to our political punditry we checked out a couple of Stormy Daniels’ performances, and you can go right ahead and call us old-fashioned, but all we can say is that she’s no Hyapatia Lee. People seem to like “Game of Thrones,” which we’re told features a lot of nudity and violence, but we’re not about to pay cable bills to see that when there’s so much of it for free on the internet. As for the awaited great millennial novel, we’d advise to the youngsters to read such timeless classics as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” and “The Things That are Caesar’s.”
Although the current popular culture doesn’t provide any refuge from the current politics, we suppose we should be paying more attention. Cultural conservatives have long said that “politics is downstream from culture,” and way back in in the ’72 Pat Buchanan was rightly observing that President Richard Nixon had won the election but lost the culture to the dirty hippies, and the downward trend seems to continue. We fear to see where it might go next, but probably out to take a look through our slightly opened fingers. Something eerily parallel does seem to be going on.
The current President of the United States was previously a star of one of those wretched reality shows, and much like that 6ix9ine fellow he has an aggressive stye of rapping and a flamboyantly weird hairstyle and a weird way of spelling words, and although he doesn’t have any tattoos we’re aware of his controversial public persona is clearly characterized by feuds with fellow celebrities and legal issues. We’d also note that Trump is the main reason Stormy Daniels is now a household, with countless husbands and horny high school students nervously erasing their search engine history. Except for the soft-core porno photos of the First Lady that are just a few clicks away on the internet the Trump presidency the Trump presidency has been blessedly free of nudity, but the president does seem to relish violence, and a lot of the more high-brow critics are claiming that “Game of Thrones” is a metaphor for our times. Nobody seems to read books anymore, and that notably includes the President of the United States, so even if the great millennial novel does appear it probably won’t make much difference.
That’s just the sorry state of the political right, too, and we shudder to think about what the political left that has been cheering on the decline of American culture since at least the ’60s might wind up nominating. We’ll keep listening to Bing Crosby’s crooning and watching Frank Capra’s sappy cinematic tributes to small-town Americana, and hope for a comeback of the more dignified American style of politics it fostered.

— Bud Norman

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Palace Intrigue in the Age of E-Mails

The stock market is swooning, new revelations about awful side deals to that awful Iranian nuke deal that would allow the Iranians to choose their own inspectors make it look it all look even more awful, the illegal immigration debate continues to simmer, and other significant news is plentiful, but nothing seemed of particular interest and yesterday was a birthday, so we decided to simply engage in some idle speculation about this e-mail controversy that has been so entertainingly disruptive to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
We love a good tale of palace intrigue, even if we’ve never watched an episode of “Game of Thrones,” which we understand has the added enticement of copious nudity, so the e-mail imbroglio offers a peculiar fascination. By now we’re familiar enough with the conventions of the genre to know that there’s always some unseen character pulling all the strings, and in this particular episodic series of putatively reality television we have anticipated that it will turn out to be President Barack Obama. Thus far his name has been almost entirely left out of the press plot line, but being the binge-watchers we are anticipating his eventual appearance.
The understandably disgruntled conservative press seems resigned to the sad realization that Clinton will never face any legal consequences for her use of a private and dubiously secured e-mail server for public use, and following the president’s Justice Department’s lack of interest in the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups and the Inspectors Generals’ reports on the pork in the stimulus bill and the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi and the Fast and Furious scandal that resulted in all those dead Mexicans and all of the rest of the current administration’s record on such things we can’t scoff at their skepticism, but we still see that surprise plot twist coming.
The headlines are already mentioning the FBI and DOJ and vague mention of criminal charges, even if they are attributed to Clinton’s e-mail server and not herself, and the plot seems to have moved too far along to any longer believe that those unseen characters are intervening in Clinton’s behalf. Obama doesn’t seem to like Clinton any better than he did back in that famous moment of the ’08 primary when he sneered “You’re likable enough,” so we’re guessing that he’d prefer someone else to provide him with the third that he’s publicly bragged he would surely win. This introduces the character of Vice President Joe Biden, who is purely comic relief, but who also wins the Black Lives and Black Lives Only Matter vote by virtue of Obama’s implicit endorsement and is suddenly a front-runner over Clinton, whose support among non-black Democrats has lately gone on a white flight to self-described Scandinavian socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Obama could well end up with his chosen successor. It might not end up with Clinton wearing the sort of orange jumpsuit that we’ve been binge-watching on Netflix’ “Orange is the New Black,” but judging by the latest polls and a Democratic panic that has led to the utterance of such names as Gore and Kerry and Warren, it’s enough to suggest that that someone in the executive branch has taken a newfound interest in the possible legal violations of a formerly high-ranking executive official.
There are reports of the Obamas and Clintons recently sharing drinks and convivial conservation at Martha’s Vineyard, and then there’s the matter of whether he would throw the first four years of his administration’s foreign policy under the bus, but we’ve seen all of the “Godfather” flicks and know that the smart players keep their friends close and their enemies closer, and we’ve read enough mainstream news to note that Obama gets away with all sorts of these shell games. He’s not up for reelection, anyway, and he knows that given the current state of academic historians he knows he’ll be treated well by history at least until his death at an old age, so he might as well go with someone less embittered toward him and some that he was less embittered toward, such as the comic relief character of ¬†buffoonish but ever-faithful sidekick Vice President Joe Biden, and to us this seems the most plausible plot line at this point.
We’ve been wrong about these shows before, but but we’re expectant that another Clinton versus feud is a-brewin’. The ratings should be strong, almost as good as that compellingly repellent Donald Trump show over on the Republican side, and at the very least is should prove a fascinating show.

— Bud Norman