Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Spacey’

PRESIDENTIAL LEGACIES

During this season’s “House of Cards” (Netflix), the wife of the presidential candidate challenging the evil incumbent Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) says of her husband: “He has a chance to be a fine president. A great president.” Maybe. But presidents don’t create legacies, and those who think they do subject the nation to great and unnecessary risks.

We hear much about the Affordable Care Act being Barack Obama’s legacy. Obamacare represented just a step forward. American healthcare has a long way to go. Moreover, President Trump and Republicans vowed to “repeal and replace.” Will they? We’ll see. But I suspect Mr. Obama’s legacy will reflect not what he set out to do but what he had to do. (More later.)

I doubt George Washington took office thinking about his legacy rather than the job at hand. He had to react to the creation of a new form of government under the Constitution. During his eight years in office, Washington had to shape the executive branch from scratch. He also had to contend with the pioneering efforts of a newly devised Congress, Supreme Court and thirteen states. All had their own Constitutional visions. Washington’s legacy consists of navigating unchartered waters successfully.

Abraham Lincoln assumed office with the nation on the brink of splitting. Shortly after his inauguration, the nation toppled over the brink. Lincoln’s greatness lay not in promoting grand plans by which history would hail him but in meeting this daunting challenge—leading in ways about which he may never have given prior thought.

Yes, some presidents see opportunities. Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark across the west and spearheaded the Louisiana Purchase. But he did so in response to Napoleon and European geopolitics. Jefferson earned good grades. To assure peace after “the war to end all wars,” Woodrow Wilson pushed the establishment of the League of Nations following World War One, which America entered well into his prsidency. Congress balked. Ultimately, the League failed. Wilson’s reputation is spotty. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Depression and did much to provide a safety net for Americans while pushing the economy towards recovery. FDR made mistakes along the way, but he’s idolized by many.

George H.W. Bush, with no legacy in mind, responded to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and ousted Iraqi forces in a 100-hour war. Then he withdrew American troops. His son George W. Bush responded to 9/11 with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The younger Mr. Bush, with little knowledge of the region, decided to remake the Middle East. History will not be kind.

Back to Barack Obama. Whatever he thought he might accomplish—health care reform being a massive item on his agenda—he entered the White House with the American economy unraveling. He responded by rescuing financial institutions “too big to fail.” For that, he’s been lauded and vilified. While time will offer new perspectives, I think his actions will establish a very positive legacy if one unplanned.

I’m baffled by people who believe that a president’s first concern should be his (and someday, her) legacy. All presidents can do is shoulder their burdens and meet challenges with their best efforts. The world mocks our plans, and history exercises its own judgement.

Have a great Fourth. And remember, you can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

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TIME TO HIDE?

This could be my last post for a while. I may have to go into hiding. Because powerful forces are seeking to hunt down and destroy those of us who satirize them. Witness Wednesday’s report in “The Daily Currant” (dailycurrant.com) of Egypt’s arrest order for Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show.”

Well, maybe that’s a stretch. “The Daily Currant” is a satirical news blog. And what could be sillier than Cairo seeking to arrest Jon Stewart just because he prompts some major laughs at the expense of hypocrites? Unless it’s Cairo arresting the Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef for poking fun at Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi. And that’s no joke.

Youssef believes that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are not all they would like Egyptians—and the world—to believe. So the government—Morsi disclaimed responsibility—arrested Youssef a week ago then released him as the world media shone a bright light into a dark hole. Nonetheless, Cairo threatens to withdraw the license of his TV channel. Its response resembles that of Seinfeld’s fabled Soup Nazi: “No freedom for you!”

I could be next. My novel Slick! points a big finger at the hypocrisy of Arab politicians who rule—or seek to rule—in the name of God. (For grins I skewer Washington, too.) Maybe the Muslim Brotherhood wants to go after Jon Stewart and me in tandem—two Jews daring to say that something’s not kosher in the Arab world. And that goes beyond Egypt.

A week ago, a Palestinian Authority court upheld a one-year prison sentence handed down to the journalist Mamdouh Hamamreh for posting a photo on Facebook likening P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas to a villain on a popular Syrian TV show. The P.A. then thought better of its stupidity and released Hamamreh.

Laughter indeed is serious business. Poke fun at a powerful figure in the Middle East—or at someone like Russian president Vladimir Putin (which I’ve done)—and you take your life in your hands. Morally corrupt leaders fear one thing above all: being turned into a punch line. Incredibly, they make it so easy.

People repeatedly ask me, “How do you come up with so many ideas for novels?” My answer is simple. “Every morning, I wake up.” Each day, a malevolent despot, despot wannabe, religious leader or corporate tycoon models the foolish emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” He’s the character whose vanity blinds him to the fact that he’s parading stark naked in front of his subjects—themselves willing believers. It takes an innocent young boy to reveal the truth.

Of course, satire isn’t the only weapon against hypocrisy. Drama does a fine job. Netflix’ original series “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey offers a nasty condemnation of Washington politicians. Yet no one (publicly at least) has suggested banning the show or arresting its creators. We have the First Amendment. Also, a hint of legal action would spur more people to sign up for Netflix and watch the show.

Still, satire remains my weapon of choice. Because the smallest barb of humor often cuts more deeply than the sword.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.