For Americans over 40, Leave It To Beaver is an iconic television show, complete with archetypal American characters. Every week during its Eisenhower/Kennedy heyday, Americans watched a handful of naifs (Beaver and Wally Cleaver, and their innocent little friends) stumble into dangerous or embarrassing situations thanks to Eddie Haskell’s slick, dishonest machinations. Eddie, a skinny, duplicitous young man, was adept at ingratiating himself with adults when called upon to do so, but his main goal remained to upset the placid social order prevailing amongst Beaver-ville‘s young. When anarchy threatened, Beaver and Wally always knew that their mother June would express worry and dispense kisses, while their father, Ward, acting in a lovingly magisterial way, would impart wisdom, impose appropriate consequences, and generally restore sanity.
Although the show ran for only six seasons (1957-1963) and pre-dated the upheavals of the 1960s, decades of repeats ensured that it resonated in the American psyche. Generations of Americans have laughed with (and yes, sneered at) the tight little world of Beaver-ville, one predicated upon stable nuclear families: wise fathers, stay-at-home mothers, and grateful children.
Perhaps the scenario is a fairy tale that never reflected the majority of American families, but it’s a lovely fairy-tale, one that promises lasting security for the child who can escape the bad boy’s enticements and embrace the elders’ wisdom. It presents an America as we wish it would be, although we’d be glad to update its monochromatic cast. In the 21st century, Beaver’s neighborhood would have different races, colors, and creeds, and it would probably be home to a conservative gay couple down the block, raising an adopted orphan from China.
What’s so satisfying about Leave It To Beaver is that it presents a time-tested way of ordering the world: it trusts maturity. Even the best-intentioned young people lack the wisdom and knowledge to cope with instability, danger, dishonesty, and disorder. Their innocence and naivete mean that they’ll too easily trust demagogues and make foolish, hurtful, and potentially harmful mistakes.
What kept the show from being a tragedy, and turned it into an amusing morality tale, was that week in and week out, the grown-ups in the room were able to sort out the child’s chaotic world. Sadly, real life isn’t like that. Too often, naive voters put their faith in demagogues and there is no rescue. This election, though, there’s still a chance that Ward Cleaver’s political stand-in can win the vote and save the day.
From the moment Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican candidate, this election took on the trappings of a contest between Ward Cleaver (played by Mitt Romney) and Eddie Haskell (played by Barack Obama). The comparison was easy at a superficial level: Romney bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Ward Cleaver, complete with commanding height, combed-back black hair, square jaw, and fatherly meme. Obama, too, is Eddie Haskell’s double since he shares the youthful face, lanky body, and manipulative, hustler’s demeanor.
If one digs beneath the superficial similarities, it’s uncanny how Mitt and Obama still stay close to the Ward and Eddie characters. Let me count the ways…
1. Obama, like Eddie Haskell, is slick and devious.
The hallmark of Eddie Haskell’s character is his deviousness:
The character, played in the original series by Ken Osmond, has become a cultural reference, recognized as an archetype for insincere sycophants. Ward Cleaver once remarked that “[Eddie] is so polite, it’s almost un-American”. The archetype became so well known that the term “Eddie Haskell” was adopted into everyday use.
Eddie was known for his neat grooming — hiding his shallow and sneaky character. Typically, Eddie would greet his friends’ parents with overdone good manners and often a compliment such as, “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver.” However, when no parents were around, Eddie was always up to no good — either conniving with his friends, or picking on Wally’s younger brother Beaver. Eddie’s two-faced style was also typified by his efforts to curry favor by trying to talk to adults at the level he thought they would respect, such as referring to their children as Theodore (Beaver’s much-disliked given name) and Wallace, even though the parents called them Beaver and Wally.
Barack Obama can give Eddie Haskell a run for his money. Obama’s participation in the first two presidential debates saw him making bald-faced lies with his trademark elan. His lies really took off in the second debate, though, as he sought to impress his base with his manic energy and in-your-face arguments:
9. “…[H]e was asked, is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver….And he said, yes, I think that’s fair.” Obama was referring to Romney’s recent 60 Minutes interview. But the transcript reveals Obama was not telling the truth. Romney was not saying it was fair that higher income should be taxed at a lower rate. He was referring specifically to the principle that capital gains should be taxed lower than other income because it has been taxed once already–a principle, incidentally, that Obama agrees with in his own tax policy.
6. “They rely on it for mammograms.” Obama attacked Romney’s proposal to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood by claiming that the organization provides mammograms to women to help prevent breast cancer. It’s been a repeated claim made by the left for months. The problem is that it’s just untrue–and even left-leaning mainstream media fact-checkers have acknowledged that. What is perhaps worse than Obama’s misleading claim about mammograms is the unsupported implication that Romney wants to deny life-saving health care to women–a cheap shot to which Romney was given no chance to respond.
4. “And the production is up….What you’re saying is just not true.” Obama contested a claim by Romney that production of oil and gas is down on federal lands. He even accused Romney of not telling the truth. But Romney was right–exactly right, down to the percentage decline. Furthermore, Obama’s claim that he has been increasing oil and gas production on federal lands flies in the face of recent policy decisions, such as closing off a large part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to further development. Obama has tried to take credit for expansion on private lands, while opposing expansion wherever possible.
Obama’s debate behavior isn’t new for seasoned-Obama watchers. Obama has always had a narcissist’s relationship with the truth. To the narcissist, if the statement helps him at the moment it’s true, never mind any troublesome facts. Outside of the crucible of a debate, Obama’s lies have had more delicacy, but he’s still lied. When it came to his relationships with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and Tony Rezko, he first denied any but the most casual acquaintance. Then, as more information leaked out, he kept admitting to closer knowledge, even while denying that his original statements were untruths.
More recently, Obama let the public see his evolution on gay marriage, one that involved first supporting gay marriage, then finding Jesus and opposing it, and finally deciding, without explanation, that Jesus pretty much mandates gay marriage. Only a cynic would note of this last flip (or was it a flop?) that scripture marched nicely along with Barry’s desperate need for campaign cash, some of which might come from a GLBT community that’s pleased that Obama finally came out of the closet on the subject. Obama’s views aren’t e-volving, as he and his acolytes claim, they’re re-volving.
All of this is Obama’s Eddie Haskell hustle. And he does it all with Eddie’s trademarked smarminess. He knows that he’s pulling one over on the voters (they’re the Wally and Beav naifs in this national play), and he can’t resist a few winks to his complicit MSM audience. They’re all in on the joke being played on the American innocents.
2. Obama, like Eddie Haskell, constantly blames others for his own conduct.
Another Eddie Haskell trait was his refusal to take responsibility for his actions:
A weaselly wise guy, Eddie could be relied upon to connive and instigate schemes with his friends — schemes for which they would be in the position of blame, if (and usually when) caught. One of his most infamous pranks with the Cleaver boys involved fastening a chain around the rear axle of their friend Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford’s car, causing unplanned damage as the entire third member and wheels became detached when he tried to move the car.
Obama promised the American public wonders and miracles. Under his “hope and change” policies, the recession would end; the government would have a balanced budget; federal debt would drop by 50%; America would be a new world force for peace and light; Islamists would love us again; joblessness would drop to 4%; and government investments in green energy would yield rich returns. What he gave the American public was the longest recession since the Great Depression; the largest deficits in American history (whether counting in raw numbers or adjusted dollars); the largest federal debt in history; the worldwide retreat of American power, especially in the Middle East; some less than “optimal” “bumps in the road,” who just happened to be Americans serving their country; state and federal means-tested welfare programs in excess of one trillion dollars; endlessly high unemployment of greater than 8% (or greater than 10% if one counts workforce drop outs); lost “investments” in Obama-donor green energy companies; and a host of other things that make for depressing reading every morning.
And at the end of the day, just as Eddie Haskell, having wreaked havoc on those around him, said “who me?”, Obama has consistently said “Not me!” Michelle Obama swears that her husband “didn’t point fingers” and “didn’t place blame,” but you can be certain that this assurance comes as a surprise to those Obama has blamed for things that happened on his watch: George Bush, ATMS, YouTube videos, Republicans, John Kerry, and Europe, just to name a few of Eddie Haskell’s . . . er, Barack Obama’s scapegoats.
3. Obama, like Eddie Haskell, vanishes (or gets nasty) when the going gets rough
Not only was Eddie Haskell a blamer, he was also a vanisher. When the pot he’d stirred started boiling over, Wally and Beav would often discover that, rather than having their six, Eddie had rabbited. His character was the living embodiment of the old saying that, “when the going gets tough, the faux tough get going.” Obama, too, can’t stay the course. He walked out on Iraq, turning it into an Iranian satellite. He’s assured the Taliban that they need not worry about America much longer. He kicked out Mubarak, who was nominally America’s ally, and is now leaving the hapless and ignorant Egyptians to the Muslim Brotherhood’s tender mercies. Having dabbled in war’s waters in Libya, he’s decided that the Syrian people are on their own. More than 20,000 have already died, while Barry dithers fecklessly.
Another trait Obama shares with Eddie Haskell is the nastiness that lurks so close to the surface. He turns on the smarmy charm when he needs to finagle people, but when the pressure is on, the hustler comes out. If Obama is cornered off the teleprompter, he’s just a trash talker: Hillary is “likeable enough”; Sarah Palin’s a pig; asses get kicked in the Gulf states; the American people whom he’s supposed to serve need to “sit in the back” of the nation’s figurative car; and police behave stupidly, just to name a few of his surprisingly vicious assaults on both public and private figures. Neither Eddie Haskell nor Obama likes people (“he really doesn’t like people“). Instead, narcissists to the core, they just use them.
4. Obama, like Eddie Haskell, has never held a real job
Another trait Obama and Eddie Haskell share is that neither has ever held a serious job. Eddie had the excuse of being a child in an imaginary, fairly affluent suburb. Obama has no such excuse. He’s “organized,” lectured, and voted “present,” but the presidency is Barry’s first real job. Worse, he doesn’t seem to like the gig. Despite his savage desire to win, Barry prefers to do anything but buckle down to his day-to-day responsibilities. He wants the glory, not the sweat.
5. Mitt Romney, like Ward Cleaver, is the essence of calm maturity, responsibility, and problem-solving skills
Throughout Leave It To Beaver’s run, Ward Cleaver functioned as Eddie Haskell’s polar opposite. Where Eddie was impulsive, Ward was thoughtful. Where Eddie was irresponsible, Ward worked hard to keep his family living a solid middle class life; and where Eddie was utterly unprincipled, Ward never failed to instill strong moral principles in his boys and their friends. Ward was a grown-up. And even 50 years later when we watch the show we still recognize him as the archetypal “good” adult.
In this election, Mitt Romney is the grown-up in the room. As he’s shown during the first two presidential debates, he is not robotic, weird, and out-of-touch. Instead — and this is something that women especially respond to — Romney comes across as caring, stable, knowledgeable, and endearingly dorky. Adolescents (and that would be the perpetually immature members of the drive-by media) strive to paint authority figures in the darkest light possible. Doing so provides them with the justification they need to deny the adult the respect he (or she) deserves, and to ignore the wisdom that the adult has acquired over the years.
Fortunately, most people (although apparently not media types) outgrow their adolescence. Mark Twain understood the trajectory a maturing person goes through as he views his parents, first from a child’s eyes, and then through an adult’s: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.” Unlike the MSM, the American voters have grown up a lot in the past four years, and they’re taking a more mature approach to Romney.
Viewed objectively, Mitt embodies wise maturity. Not only has he held real jobs (Bain, the SLC Olympics, governor of Massachusetts), in each case he’s excelled, benefiting not only himself, but thousands, or even tens of thousands, of others. Although progressives won’t admit it, and conservatives are shamefully embarrassed to admit it, capital management creates vast sums of money, not only for the money managers, but for the nation as a whole. Money isn’t trapped in dusty government coffers or doled out selectively to special interest groups in exchange for votes. It’s spread around. As Dolly Levi understood, “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” Romney, Bain, and that whole crew were America’s farmers, spreading that money far and wide while pulling out the weeds that appeared in the guise of mismanaged or dead-on-their-feet corporations that were trapping otherwise useful wealth.
Romney hasn’t just worked as a businessman, though. He’s also lived as a principled man in his personal life. His charitable donations — coming in at approximately 30% of his income — far exceeded that required under his faith, and dwarf the puny sums the very rich Barack Obama and very rich Joe Biden gave to charity. He’s also been unusually generous with his time. Although Mitt is very uncomfortable talking about himself, his generosity goes beyond his purse. He visits the sick, not just because of photo ops, but because his humanity reaches out to them; and he has always understood that people come before business. He is a truly good man, not when he’s in the limelight with people cheering him on, but in the quiet times, when acts of generosity are least noticed and most important.
Romney is a thoughtful man. His flip-flops lack that extra flip that Barry adds (e.g., Barry’s gay marriage flip-flop-flip). Instead, they’re the thoughtful development of ideas based upon life experience. Significantly, his changes move in one direction. (Just to be clear, that’s the conservative direction.)
Mitt is a man of true faith, unlike Barry, who talks the talk when he needs to, but has never walked the walk. You may not like Mitt’s faith, but he’s true to it. Importantly, while its doctrine may be a bit peculiar to many Americans, the values it imparts to its followers are completely consistent with American values. Moreover, Mitt’s doctrinal beliefs don’t shift abruptly with the political winds. There’s something unstable, and downright megalomaniacal, about a man who bends Jesus to his will, rather than bending himself to Jesus’ teachings. Mitt lacks that unnerving instability.
The Eddie and Ward show culminates on November 6, 2012. That’s when Wally and Beav, the American naifs, have to make a choice: They can continue down the Eddie Haskell path, one that both in TV-Land and in the real world inevitably leads to lasting trouble, or they can follow the all-American Wally and the Beav, and turn to the wise parent, Papa Mitt, who waits in the wings to restore sanity to an increasingly insane and scary national and international situation.
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