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Roger L. Simon

America at the Crossroads on the Fourth of July

July 3rd, 2014 - 4:26 pm

America is at a crossroads — we always seem to be, but this time we really are.

We are living under the administration of a president that is now the least popular since World War II.  A full one-third  of those polled by Quinnipiac rate Barack Obama the worst president since 1945.  (Reagan is rated the best.)

What accounts for this?  There are dozens of reasons that have been detailed on these pages and many others.  The man has lied to us multiple times — and to himself as well, no doubt — and many people now apparently sense this.  But I think the deepest reason, the motivating cause, stems from a time Barack Obama actually didn’t lie, but told an important truth.

Back on July 27, 2004, a then obscure Illinois senator made himself famous by standing in front of the Democratic National Convention and speaking these words: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America, a Latino America, an Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Did he believe those words?  Maybe. Once upon a time.  But evidently not very deeply. The fact is he betrayed them completely and almost everything he has done wrong has stemmed from that betrayal.  He has acted in the most partisan and deceitful manner, surrounding himself with a tiny group of yes-women and yes-men,  making a mockery of his self-proclaimed transparency, shamelessly exploiting interest groups in a way that could only divide our society while diminishing America’s place in the world,  and allowing evil forces to grow across the globe.

All of this while being convinced he is always doing the right thing. The rest of us are wrong.  He is not the commander-in-chief. He is the moral narcissist in chief.  It’s not “I think, therefore I am.”  It’s “I believe — therefore it is.”

But most of the country seems to realize that now.  And his poll numbers reflect it.  Sometimes it seems as if his only real supporters are government employees, food stamp recipients,  and the editorial board of the New York Times.  Whatever the case, that 2004 speech to the DNC is so far in the rear view mirror we might as well be on Battlestar Galactica.

So what do we do?  How do we become — on this Fourth of July — the United States of America again?

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In Memoriam—Paul Mazursky

July 1st, 2014 - 8:45 am

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I am on a plane to Seattle and minutes ago fired up the in-flight Internet to write some observations about Dinesh D’Souza’s America, which I saw last night, when I received word via email that one of my closest friends and mentor — the great writer/director Paul Mazursky – had died, probably when I was driving to the Burbank airport. Dinesh will have to wait.

There are tears in my eyes as I write this because no man had as great a professional effect on me — a professional effect that was deeply personal as well, because collaborating with Paul, as I did on several screenplays, was always an adventure of the most intimate sort, sharing endless stories and emotions that would go into our scripts.

I had seen Paul only yesterday in his hospital bed at Cedars Sinai. (I am grateful to our mutual friend David Freeman for informing me he was there.) He did not look good and I wondered if he would ever get out. I tried to engage him in conversation. It was difficult. Paul, normally the most garrulous of men, could barely talk. But we chatted a bit about Enemies, A Love Story – the most successful movie we co-wrote and he directed — and he reminded me that Isaac Singer, the author of the novel, had liked the film. We also talked of the trip we took together with some friends, trekking in the Himalayas to get as far as we could from the premiere of Scenes from a Mall, a less successful effort.

Paul, of course, made over a dozen fine movies, including Next Stop Greenwich Village, Harry and Tonto, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills. We all have our favorites. But at a time like this I choose to remember Paul the man, not the auteur who has been called, reductively I think, the “West Coast Woody Allen.”

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Borgias, Anyone? Ed Klein’s Blood Feud

June 29th, 2014 - 5:55 pm
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Gorgeous Borgias.

Blood Feud, Ed Klein’s new book on the Clintons and the Obamas currently rocketing to the top of the Amazon best seller list even before its official publication day, is a lurid, irresponsible work of yellow journalism filled with suppositions, inaccuracies, myriad anonymous sources, made-up dialogue and (often extreme) bias.

In other words, it is essentially like your average front page story in the New York Times.

But unlike the Times, Klein gets it essentially right about his subject — the Clintons and the Obamas despise each other.

And unlike the Times, Blood Feud is a compulsive read.  I dare you to put it down. The book reminds you of nothing so much as an episode of Shonda Rhimes’ television series Scandal — and a particularly excessive episode at that. Even at its most seemingly illogical, Klein’s work has the ring of truth.  He’s on to something, even if he hasn’t hit the bull’s eye.

The main characters here — Hillary, Michelle, Barack, Bill and, to an extraordinary extent,  real “power behind the throne” Valerie Jarrett — read like a group of Borgias set free on today’s Washington, loathing each other and plotting revenge while living a lifestyle even the one percent could barely dream of.

The idea that these people could even utter the words “income inequality” is farcical.  At some point they may have had political ideas of some sort — who knows — but that was in a galaxy far, far away and has been lost forever in the latest round of golf, $200,000 speeches to Arab potentates or spur-of-the-moment trips  to Maui to woo Oprah at her mansion.

A lot of the book too reads like a companion piece to Hillary’s latest — well, not exactly, since no one appears to be interested in that door stopper –because most of the leaks appear to be from people anxious to differentiate Hillary from Obama. POTUS, as we know, is not exactly popular these days and anyone seeking the presidency would be well advised to separate herself from him as far as possible. This accounts for much of the amusing dish in the book, Hillary even dropping the F-bomb in front of some of her amazed old classmates from Wellesley when referring to Obama’s undeniable executive incompetence.

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IRS: Shame and Loathing on the Media Trail

June 25th, 2014 - 11:05 pm

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A number of smart people, among them Peter Wehner, Mark Halperin and John Hinderaker, have been pointing out the unfortunately predictable silence of the mainstream media regarding the IRS scandal — not to mention the myriad other Obama scandals that we will soon be counting on three, or is it four, hands.

The front page of Tuesday’s New York Times made no mention of the congressional hearings on the missing Lois Lerner emails and putative computer crash; the networks were a virtual silence of the not-so-lambs.  (Remember  how they obsessed on the  Christie/GW Bridge contretemps as if it were the beginning of nuclear war?)

On his Wednesday Talking Points Memo, Bill O’Reilly went so far as to say the media silence, censorship, whatever you want to call it was subverting democracy. That’s an understatement.  It was trampling on it.

The  conventional explanation for this willful blindness cited by the above mentioned gentlemen is that the media is in the tank for the Democratic Party and, by extension, for Obama.  Well, sure. But it is far more than that. Political parties and politicians come and go.  The media doesn’t.  They may be in the tank for Obama, but much more than that they are in the tank for themselves — a whole lifestyle and world view that has been going on for decades, moral narcissism distilled to its purest essence.

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Israel and the ‘Jihadi Spring’

June 22nd, 2014 - 9:35 pm

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Forget the “Arab Spring” that never was.  We are now in a “Jihadi Spring” that is very real. That murderous Al Qaeda spinoff  the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), known locally as DAASH, has already taken control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and yesterday seized a transit point with Jordan.

But what do they really have in mind?  It’s not that hard to guess.  Frank Lamb, a man bizarrely sympathetic to DAASH/ISIS (a group that likes to lop off people’s heads!) and in contact with their leadership, writes at a website called muslimvillage.com that their dual goal is to establish a Sunni caliphate and, naturally, “liberate” Palestine:

With respect to events surrounding its takeover of Mosul and other social media broadcast exhibitions of mass brutality, ISIS claims it was done for a purpose, the same purpose that other state and non-state actors have used over the past two decades and that is for 90% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims (Sunni) to free themselves from the oppression of the 10% (Shia).

Several reasons were given as to why Palestinians should hold out hope for ISIS succeeding in their cause when all other Arab, Muslim, and Western claimed Resistance supporters have been abject failures and invariably end up benefiting the Zionist occupation regime terrorizing Palestine. “All countries in this region are playing the sectarian card just as they have long played the Palestinian card but the difference with ISIS is that we are serious about Palestine and they are not. Tel Aviv will fall as fast as Mosul when the time is right”, a DAASH ally explained. Another gentleman insisted, “DAASH will fight where no one else is willing.”

If I were Benjamin Netanyahu, I would take them seriously — and I imagine he does.

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Why People Zone Out on Hillary

June 18th, 2014 - 10:56 pm

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Hillary Clinton — the woman assumed to be the next Democratic Party presidential nominee and quite possibly the next president — is evidently a big snooze.  According to Mediate, her interviews to promote her book on CNN and Fox had underwhelming numbers. In the case of Greta Van Susteren’s show, she sent people fleeing midway. More importantly, her book itself is a sales disappointment and, I would wager, even more disappointing if you could ascertain how many who did buy it read actually past page 15.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in single digits.

No, I haven’t read it and don’t intend to. Almost all books by contemporary politicians are intellectually vacuous, ghostwritten exercises in self-promotion or, as in the case of Barack Obama, a straight out pack of lies. Who would spend their valuable reading time on that with the thousands of great books, past and present, available?  I haven’t even made my way through half of Dorothy Sayers.

Which leads me to the deeper reason the country is sleeping through Hillary’s book and it’s not just because it’s hugely over long and therefore a totally un-green waste of paper and trees (although that’s true).  Most people know she’s basically dishonest, a prevaricator.  Even liberals, though they won’t readily admit it, know this.  Who can forget her blaming her husband’s compulsive philandering on the “great, right-wing conspiracy”?  If they only had such power. Or the dim-witted claims of being under fire when she hadn’t been (at least Geraldo makes a show of ducking)  and, more recently, the banshee-cry of “What difference does it make?” concerning the deaths of our people in Benghazi?  The Benghazi lies are actually exponential. (I’m not even going to go back to Whitewater, the miracle quick killing on the stock market, the mysterious Rose Law Firm bill and all the rest.)

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America, the Headless Horseman

June 14th, 2014 - 8:42 pm

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Forget the endless scandals that seem to come at us every other day — the latest being the Benghazi terrorists using State Department cell phones (!), a crusade of Hispanic children pouring over our Southern border in the company of cartel drug lords and, of course, the suddenly “missing” IRS  emails of Lois Lerner — the Obama administration has reached  levels of hitherto unknown incompetence.

It is a complete and utter debacle.

Hardly anyone believes in the president anymore. Last night, on the O’Reilly Factor, even Geraldo deserted him.  What next?  James Carville? (Well, probably, to aid in Hillary’s coming separation from Obama.)

No wonder the talking heads can’t figure out how to respond to new bogeyman no. 1 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his ISIS on their way to creating a caliphate across Syria and Iraq that would be a mammoth staging ground for global terrorism the likes of which we have never seen.  We don’t have a leader to stop him that anyone would conceivably want to follow. What we have is a serial liar who can’t even tell the truth about healthcare — or  in his own memoir for that matter (assuming he wrote it).  How do you trust him in war?

This is a moment when we need a Churchill and what we have is the man who sent Churchill’s bust home — a nowhere man whose only demonstrable skill is fund-raising. (In that way, however,  he was even outdone by Abu Bakr himself who evidently snatched several hundred million for his cause from Mosul banks in one day.)

Today, on Twitter, a veteran named J. R. Salzman tweeted: “I did not get an arm blown off in Baghdad so you could sit on your ass and watch Iraq fall, @BarackObama. I did my job. DO YOUR JOB.” It got retweeted over 2600 times and climbing.  It’s easy to see why.

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Most of us have heard of The Theater of the Absurd. The term was coined by critic Martin Esslin to describe the works of such playwrights as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter and Edward Albee and their relationship to the absurdist existentialist philosophy of Albert Camus.

According to Wikipedia, “Their [the playwrights'] work expressed the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence…. The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces.”

Little did Esslin know that, back in 1960, he would be describing the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Our president has, quite literally, developed a Foreign Policy of the Absurd — alienated, pointless, nihilistic and indescribable.

It also has a certain black comic quality, an irony, akin to the plays of Luigi Pirandello, the great Italian writer who prefigured the absurdists and whose most famous work is Right You Are, If  You Think You Are, often translated as It Is So, If You Think So.

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What Cantor’s Defeat Means

June 10th, 2014 - 8:00 pm

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After 24 years and 12 congressional terms, Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s dreams of being speaker of the House exploded Tuesday in a matter of hours in a stunning defeat by political novice Dave Brat.

Riding a wave of anti-amnesty sentiment, the Randolph-Macon economics professor managed to win even in Richmond neighborhoods historically friendly to Cantor.  He was clearly helped by recent reports of massive numbers of illegal aliens, including children, crossing our Southern border as well as a relatively puny turnout.  Nevertheless, it was a huge and convincing win for Brat.

As Brit Hume noted on Fox, the conventional wisdom immediately permeating Washington was that this election was bad news for Republican prospects in 2016.  At this point few if any Republicans will go near immigration reform as an issue, supposedly alienating the Hispanic vote beyond repair. Meanwhile, Democrats will have a field day branding Republicans as Tea Party crazies.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz was already at it minutes after the Brat victory. Talk about projection!

But is this primary such a disaster?  I am not so sure — and I was the one defending Cantor not long ago in these pages.  To put it mildly, politics as usual has obviously been failing.  That of course means Obama and the rest of the tawdry “progressive” crew but it also inevitably means his loyal (actually too loyal) opposition.  The old pas de deux must go. Now maybe it will — or more of it anyway.

Listening to Brat being interviewed by Sean Hannity after the primary, I was encouraged. The professor seemed a bright man, refreshingly direct and honest, addressing ideas and issues in a, well, professorial manner rarely heard in politics these days.  It almost made me sad he was leaving academia, such men having become as extinct in universities as they are in politics.

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In 1979, Christopher Lasch published The Culture of Narcissism warning of the normalizing of pathological narcissism in our society.  Considering events since then, he was evidently on to something.  Now, some 35 years later in the Obama era, with the Bergdahl incident only the latest in a parade of endless scandals, we have arrived at a  full blown era of what has lately been called Moral Narcissism.

Moral Narcissism is an evocative term for the almost schizophrenic divide between intentions and results now common in our culture.  It doesn’t matter how anything turns out as long as your intentions are good.  And, just as importantly, the only determinant of those intentions, the only one who defines them, is you.

In other words, if you propose or do something, it only matters that you feel good or righteous about what you did or are proposing, that it makes you feel better personally.  The results are irrelevant, as are how the actual activity affects others.

Also, although it pretends (especially to the self) to altruism, moral narcissism is in essence passive aggressive, asserting superiority over the ignorant or “selfish” other. It is elitist,  anti-democratic and quote often, consciously or unconsciously, sadistic.

The Obama administration is loaded with moral narcissists, including, obviously, the president himself — Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton etc.  The media and Hollywood are also clearly stuffed to the gills with moral narcissists.

Obamacare is a perfect example of moral narcissism in action.  Never mind that the public didn’t want it. Never mind it was an atrociously planned bureaucratic mess (in fact that comes with the territory).  It was what Barack Obama wanted — for himself.

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