Home > Uncategorized > Clay Aiken, Jed Bartlet, and America

Clay Aiken, Jed Bartlet, and America


The text of that link is the sound that’s made when thousands of printing presses come to a screeching halt simultaneously. Yes, America, Clay Aiken is making it official via Wednesday’s edition of People Magazine. He’s gay. Gayer than a night at a Broadway musical. Gayer than Kevin Spacey at his timeshare on Fire Island. The cover’s headline is a bit reminiscent of Ellen Degeneres’s self-outing in the same publication. Except hers was far more folksy, reading “Yep, I’m gay.” But no, Clay Aiken opts for a far more formal “Yes” rather than the more folksy “Yep.” (Rejected headline: “Why yes, my good man, I do enjoy the sexual company of other men! Jolly good show.”)

Despite this admission, John McCain has gone on record as saying that the fundamentals of Aiken’s heteresexuality are strong.

Speaking of the election, since everybody else seems to be dumping this onto their blog, the following is an excerpt from a fictional conversation written by Aaron Sorkin (creator of “Sports Night”, “The West Wing”, and various other shows that’re better than broadcast deserves). The conversation’s participants are fictional President Jed Bartlet from “The West Wing” and current Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.

“GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!”

The original article, which was written by Sorkin for Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times, can be found HERE.

It’s a lovely sentiment, really. Particularly since nothing angers me more than the snide “elitism” remarks that are directed at Obama. Because, as Barlet points out, the insinuation is that intelligence is inherently a bad thing, and simply having a resume that says you were educated at Harvard is enough for people to accuse you of talking down to other people. For you see, this country was not built on the backs of exceptional people doing exceptional things, but rather through the half-hearted and irrational actions of mediocre men with less than mediocre minds and ideas.

Well, that’s what Karl Rove would have you believe anyway.

Mud-slinging is nothing new to politics, but the impact Rove has had on the way it’s conducted is certainly fascinating. His strategy is to take every quality of your opponent and every action he takes and put a negative spin on it, no matter the motivations or level of altruism behind those actions. If your opponent did work as a community organizer, you simply note it in a snide tone of voice and imply that it’s the only thing he’s ever done with his life. If s/he saves a puppy from a burning building in Des Moines, you ask where he was when that warehouse caught fire in Detroit. And so on and so forth.

The sad part is, and the reason why Sorkin and Dowd’s sentiments ultimately fall on deaf ears, is that it works. The American people don’t want to vote for somebody who has a superior intellect. I mean, it sounds cliche to even take a jab at Bush for it, but there is absolutely no denying the fact that he was elected and re-elected as the “everyman” candidate: a simple man whose straight-talk would make for good conversation at a bar and whom you wouldn’t ever expect to say anything on any subject that would go over your head.

Why does that appeal to so many Americans? My theory is that it all boils down to our egos. Perhaps the reason that Europeans think we’re all blowhards is that we really are blowhards whose talk extends far beyond our means. More than anyone else in the world, we walk around with a teenagers’ delusion of omniscience. We know everything there is to know about every subject, and the vast majority of us would argue with experts in a specific field if we worked for long enough under an incorrect assumption even though there’s nothing on our background that would suggest we’d be qualified to even discuss the matter with the aforementioned expert. Acknowledging mistakes made, errors in judgment, and that others are far more qualified to speak on subjects than we are is something truly foreign.

Which is why Bush was elected.

Now, as much as I can make fun of McCain and think that some of his views (if those ARE his views – who the Hell even knows at this point) are a bit off-base and not the direction this country should be taken in, he’s not an idiot. But his campaign wants to run his campaign the same way Bush’s was run, complete with Sarah Palin being so hilariously incompetent that they, in effect, file a restraining order against the Press and are somehow able to convince people that this is a justifiable thing to do with a Vice-Presidential candidate.

Side Rant: It’s interesting that the same minds that brought you the “Axis of Evil” want to grant the press the same level of access that Kim Jong Il does. In the interest of fairness, I need to note that it’s not a direct comparison. See, Kim Jong Il is a dictatorial madman and control freak who rules his country with an iron fist. That’s why his country’s press doesn’t get access to him. The press in this country isn’t allowed access to Palin not because of some desire on her part to be an evil dictator, but rather than the McCain Campaign realized after talking to her for more than half an hour that, holy shit, she really is the simple-minded bumpkin that she portrays herself as in speeches and public appearances.

But the thing is that it works because the American people want it to work. None of this – not Bush’s re-election, not Palin’s popularity, NONE of it is the work of some criminal mastermind. It’s the work of people who are simply smart enough to know that Americans are for the most part disenfranchised, apathetic, or just plain gullible while the other 40% don’t turn out in good enough numbers to win elections. Which is why people who have never had to live their lives without the financial parachute of their parents have the gall to repeat the mantra of “elitist” and “rock star” in reference Obama…and why they’re able to get away with it.

So yes, it’d be nice to simply pump my fist after reading fictional President Bartlet’s advice to the real Presidential nominee. The problem is that there’s a reason we’re reading this as the words of a fictional former President rather than hearing it from a real former President like Bill Clinton. It’s fantasy. It’s correct, and it’s just, and in a perfect world it’d be followed through on. Do I really need to point out, though, that we don’t live in the same world that a television writer constructs in his imagination?

But what the fuck do I know, I’m just another cynical elitist sipping on a cocktail at a country club while making snide remarks about the working class. Except I don’t drink anymore, so substitute “sipping on a cocktail” with “eating pickles out of a bowl.” Oh, and I don’t belong to a country club due to my economic situation but more importantly my personality and interests. So let’s substitute that with something more appropriate and try that again.

…but what the fuck do I know. I’m just a cynical elitist who eats pickles out of a bowl in his bedroom while making snide remarks about the cast of VH1’s “I Love Money.”

Oh, and I’m not really that cynical, because there’s a big part of me that truly believes that as long as you market the message right, you can still sell people on the idea that the right candidate under the right circumstances can overcome the odds, win the election, and make America a better place. But perhaps that’s just another cynical and elitist idea; one that says things can always be better and we should strive for that.

More later…

  1. September 24, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Remember these simple equations:

    Rich, white, Ivy League educated Republican = American Dream, Capitalism at its best, wholly deserved success.
    Rich, white, Ivy League educated Democrat = elitist snob, ivory tower living Prius driving, hates America, God, NASCAR, average folks. Does not understand real Americans.
    Poor, white, uneducated Republican = Salt of the Earth. Source of America’s moral strength, paragon of common sense and decency.
    Poor, white, uneducated Democrat = Lazy, slothful, jealous, wants something for nothing.
    Non-whites = Something to be feared by group 3, exploited by group 1.

  2. September 24, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I thought you’d like that article.

    I think the most striking thing about the article was the comment about American exceptionalism not extending to Americans who are actually exceptional. “Americans” (quoted for generalization purposes) cannot stand to see anyone or anything be more exceptinal than what their collective egos can allow. If you are more than marginally higher than the status quo, you are an enemy of the state.

    But what do I know? I’m sitting on a toilet made of solid silver, getting blown by the Olsen Twins, waiting for my fleet of jets to get fueled up so I can go to Asia to watch filipino slap fights. BTW, I have more than one jet, just in case I want to go to more than one place a day.

    Party on, Marshall

    • September 24, 2008 at 8:16 pm

      Of course Americans hate anyone smarter than average. Go see how much funding you can get for gifted students at the average American high school.

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