Taking a Chance

Anyone out there ever see Being There (1979)?

The film starred the late great Peter Sellers as a mentally challenged gardener named Chance. Born and raised on the estate of a reclusive rich man, he spent his entire time working with plants and watching TV. When his patron dies, he is cast out into a world that he has only observed through the far remove of television. One would expect that this babe in the woods would soon come to a untimely end.

But the plot is a comedy instead of a tragedy. The main character’s bovine placidity is mistaken for gravitas, his confusion is seen as deep thought, and the occasional cryptic non sequiturs that he utters are heralded as the most precious of wisdom. Chance, the extremely simple gardener, is mistaken as Chauncey Gardener, a successful entrepreneur and man of the world who was brought low by a hostile business environment. It doesn’t take long before the movers and shakers in the world take notice, and congregate to pay homage.

The movie ends with a cabal of political heavyweights deciding that they need to nominate this barely functional idiot for President. The fact that there is no public record of his past life is seen as a boon, since there would be no skeletons in his closet or past scandals to unexpectedly torpedo the campaign.

Isn’t this pretty much the problem that the Democrats have been struggling with for the past few elections?

The Dems nominated John Kerry back in 2004, thinking that his past military service would endear him to patriotic voters. But they weren’t able to erase the memory and recordings of extremely hateful remarks he made in the past, remarks where he accused every single one of the soldiers he served with as being war criminals. Instead of showing Kerry as being a patriotic fellow American, his service was then perceived as a shameless ploy to gain legitimacy before embarking on a political career based on scorn for the very values he was supposed to hold so dear. Incidents during his Presidential campaign also went a long way towards convincing the swing voters that he was actually something of a son of a bitch.

It was obvious that having Kerry wrap himself in the flag during the campaign didn’t work because he showed such contempt for his country at the beginning of his political career, and his own prickly and elitist personality put off a lot of people who were willing to give that a pass. What the Dems needed was a leader who had no skeletons in his closet. They needed someone with enough charisma so everyone could mistake empty platitudes as being profound, confusion at the outside world would be seen as deep thought, and calm placidity would be mistaken for being approachable and friendly.

Just as obviously, Hillary didn’t fit this description in any way.

The first time I heard of Barack Obama was when he threw his hat in the ring to become President, and the first thing that struck me when I started to look in to his qualifications was just how unqualified he was for the job. Seven years in the Illinois state Senate, four years in Washington, and someone actually thinks this guy can be trusted with the crushing responsibility of helming our ship of state for four years? It became clear to me what the Dems were trying to pull when I came across an old VHS copy of Being There while cleaning out one of my closets.

The analogy isn’t exact, of course. The main character in the film was a moron, while Obama is a highly educated and intelligent man. Chance the gardener fell into his enviable position through sheer luck, while Obama has worked tirelessly for decades to achieve his success.

But I bet that the Dems would prefer someone like Chance, since Obama is too smart to shut up when he is supposed to.

Does this spell the end of Obama’s chances to be elected President? Dunno. It is a long time before the election, or even the end of the Democratic primaries. Just about anything can happen. But I bet that right about now the Dems are wishing that they went with moron who sounded like an educated man, instead of the reverse.

Another Speech If We are Quiet Enough to Hear

Petraeus’ speech follows in the tradition of others we have linked on this site. The great old rhetoric may not be as effective in our media-soaked age where all voices are blurred by the white noise that surrounds us (and some of it is more than white noise – it grabs at us even as we read). These may, indeed, be speeches for another era – but I suspect its listeners did listen, knowing a quiet in which such words stand alone.

(Instapundit linked to Mona Charen at The Corner.) Speech below.

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SOTU Links – Offered for Comment

Bush’s State of Union (with streaming video).

Webb’s response. Also on Drudge.

Michael Gerson speaks for himself (though where his loyalty lies remain clear).  So often his precision, more articulate than Bush’s own, led to our understanding the person who spoke them.  (Yes, I wish our presidents wrote their own speeches, but in the end it is Webb’s inconsistency rather than his hoary cliches that poses a problem.)

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Speech 4 – Woodrow Wilson Center

Today’s speech noted the distinction between those who were for Bush and those who, believing in the mission in Iraq, were willing to give up not only life on the fast track but life itself:

One of these men was a Marine lieutenant named Ryan McGlothlin, from Lebanon, Virginia. Ryan was a bright young man who had everything going for him and he always wanted to serve our nation. He was a valedictorian of his high school class. He graduated from William & Mary with near-perfect grade averages, and he was on a full scholarship at Stanford, where he was working toward a doctorate in chemistry.

Two years after the attacks of September the 11th, the young man who had the world at his feet came home from Stanford for a visit. He told his dad, “I just don’t feel like I’m doing something that matters. I want to serve my country. I want to protect our lands from terrorists, so I joined the Marines.” When his father asked him if there was some other way to serve, Ryan replied that he felt a special obligation to step up because he had been given so much. Ryan didn’t support me in the last election, but he supported our mission in Iraq. And he supported his fellow Marines.

Ryan was killed last month fighting the terrorists near the — Iraq’s Syrian border. In his pocket was a poem that Ryan had read at his high school graduation, and it represented the spirit of this fine Marine. The poem was called “Don’t Quit.”

We need to remember – indeed, so do others – that such people see something bigger than Bush. (And what they share with him is that he, too, sees that.)

Bush’s Speech – Links

Bush’s speech, transcript & video. Here, he acknowledges feelings the pundits often try to quantify, but moves on to a firm conclusion:

There’s always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. This would be a pleasant world, but it’s not the world we live in. The enemy is never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday’s brutality. This enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will keep our nerve and we will win that victory.

Barone’s take.

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