No Country for Old White Men – or There Will Be Mud

New America Media, Commentary, Published Feb. 3, 2008

Editor’s Note: Hollywood and the primaries are vying for the front-page news. But there are parallels between movies nominated for the Oscars this year and the stories of the election, notes NAM contributing writer Russell Morse.

As Hollywood vies with politics in the 24-hour news cycle, I realized today that there is a staggering amount of parallels to be drawn between the field of presidential candidates and the recently announced Academy Award nominees. If you doubt me, do so at your own peril as I demonstrate this truth.

ATONEMENT: I haven’t seen this film, though I understand it is a gripping, powerful, tour de force or whatever it is that movie critics say. Let’s just say it’s an epic romance and leave it at that. And an epic romance is essentially what America saw Thursday night as Barack and Hillary sat down to exchange pleasantries onstage at the Kodak Theatre (oddly enough, this is also where the Oscars will be held later this month).

They were smiling at each other; they hugged. Obama even pulled Clinton’s chair out for her. Last week, I was so frustrated with their spouse-bashing and race-baiting that I was ready to join the elephant team. Gladly, I see that they’ve realized that viciousness will only alienate the legions of fans who have rediscovered politics because of them and they toned it down. They made amends. It was an evening of atonement. In fact, this “debate” went so far beyond atonement that it was practically make-up sex.

And bravo to them.

Stevie Wonder was in the audience and even he could see that if these kids made nice, they could be a “dream ticket.” You think I’m joking, but Wonder jumped out of his chair applauding wildly at the suggestion of a Clinton/Obama partnership.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: The night before the Hillobama love fest, the Republicans also gathered for a debate, but the results there were far from feel-good. They spent half the time indulging in almost homo-erotic Reagan-worship – the oldest of all American presidents, elected at 69 – and the other half arguing over who wants to stay in Iraq the longest.

John McCain, 71, seems to have the nomination locked up at this point. The only problem is, Republicans don’t like him and he doesn’t seem to understand that the war in Iraq isn’t very popular anymore. Mitt Romney is losing luster by the second and Mike Huckabee . . . well, even Chuck Norris, “Walker: Campaign Ranger,” can’t roundhouse Huck back into the race.

It’s safe to say that the Republicans are in disarray and, at least for today, whoever they put up will eventually be slain by Clinton, Obama or some combination of the two. And that is why, in the 2008 presidential election, America is no country for old white men.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD: John McCain says he wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years and the same day, 50 people are killed in a bombing in a pet market in Baghdad. Suicides among U.S. service members have doubled since 2001, American casualties are teetering on the edge of 4,000, and as the rest of the economy is collapsing, Exxon is poised to set a corporate profit record this quarter.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to stump speeches, but the war in Iraq is the lethal cancer eating away at the soul of America right now. From our staggering national debt to our poor standing in the international community to a fumbling economy and low consumer confidence, the war is the cause of our mess. And no matter what solution any candidate dreams up and eventually implements, there will be more blood.

I saw this movie and loved it. I won’t go into much detail, but for those who haven’t seen it, let me establish a simple theme. The film’s central conflict is between a soulless and greedy oil man interested only in profit and growth, and with no regard for morality or spirituality. His nemesis is a passionate young preacher who hears the voice of God and inspires a growing congregation in his small town. The conflict, quite simply, is God versus money. And this is why the Republicans are struggling right now. The party is fractured between faith and financial issues and even further still by the war on terror and immigration.

George W. Bush was elected twice because he was able to pay lip service to both Christians and capitalists. There is no such man this time around and as a result, the GOP can’t find someone they like. So instead, they’ve got a maverick Nam vet and a New England slicker battling it out. And in that war, there will be mud.

I’M NOT THERE: Cate Blanchett was nominated for her gender-bending portrayal of Bob Dylan in this bio-pic that nobody saw but is supposedly pretty good. I chose it because the title is a fitting phrase to address the boys who have since bowed out of the race. I bid a fond farewell to John Edwards, who got an unfair rap for expensive haircuts. The truth is, he’s charming and handsome and he nailed down the working man, old-time Democratic populist message better than anybody else. I suspect he’s not gone for good. And let’s shed a lone tear for the mayor of America, as Rudy Giuliani bows out gracefully. Maybe he can stay in Florida and spend his final years on Miami beach, making Sept. 11 sand castles and playing with fire trucks.