There are times when I really, really hate Slate. Like, when I saw this:
Few movies get the second chance to enter the public’s consciousness that Primary Colors now has. But with Hillary Clinton running for the White House, Mike Nichols’ 1997 adaptation of Joe Klein’s sleazy roman à clef about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign deserves another look—if not for its political insight, then for what it might tell us about the current Clinton campaign.
No. No, a fictional account of a presidential campaign from fifteen years ago written by a reporter with no particular connection to the people he based his story upon can tell us absolutely nothing about a real person running an actual campaign today. It’s insulting to their readers to even suggest that it can. Movies can talk about particular arch-types or the broad sweep of society and culture, but they cannot gives us any meaningful information about a particular person. People are complicated. much more complicated than any movie could ever be. No movie can capture everything important about a person, an no movie character “based on” a real person can ever tell us anything important about that model for the character. The real person is lost in the demands of shooting schedules and running time and dramatic necessity. The Statons are caricatures at worst, poor, pale shadows at best, of the Clintons. That should be obvious. Sadly, it appears its not, at least not at Slate.
And, sadly enough, the article gets worse:
he moment shows off the brains Emma Thompson brings to the role, but it also suggests the dilemma facing Hillary Clinton. If she learned from the gaffes she made during the ’92 campaign (particularly her dumb remark about Tammy Wynette’s great “Stand by Your Man”), she has never seemed fully at ease with the smiling public face she has adopted since then. For Hillary Clinton, that public face, the pressure to make nice and act nice, the constant knowledge that women have to prove themselves capable but not act “manly,” may be a distraction from the real work of politics. The catch, of course, is that the public face has to be winning if she’s ever going to have the chance to do that work.
Well, that may be true, but tis only true if people liek this reporter continue to place appearance above substance. Spend more time covering health care plans and less time covering how candidates look on stage and I am rather sure the “public face” of Hillary will be fine.
And this, this is just dumb:
But the deeper problem of Primary Colors isn’t that it trades in gossip but that it endorses a brand of idealism that’s as destructive to politics as corruption. Liberals (and I speak as one) have an unfortunate tendency to confuse compromise with corruption, to mistake the ballot box for the confessional and assume the choice made therein should leave our souls clean. (That’s why so many of us have gone off the deep end and voted for Nader.) The challenge the Clintons have always posed to liberals is the challenge of growing up and realizing how things get done. It’s the inability to accept the compromises of politics that strands Libby Holden in her Neverland (Kathy Bates’ performance strikes the movie’s only genuinely tragic notes).
Put aside the “so many of us” nonsense, and put aside the writer’s flawed understanding of the end of the movie and focus on the argument about liberals and their relationship to the Clintons. It’s as if this person has never heard of NAFTA or Welfare Reform, or the death penalty or the Iraq war vote, or any of a dozen other issues where the Clintons have been to the right of progressives and Democrats. But opposition to them and those policies cannot possible come from the principled belief in certain policies and plans for the country. No, it must come from some strange, childish Clinton Derangement Syndrome. This paragraph is particularly odd in that it is written in the middle of a primary campaign when Democrats don;t have to decide between the Democrat and the Republican but rather between candidates with different visions of what Democrats should stand for and how they should achieve their goals. Its the one place in the electoral system where voting close to your ideals is actually appropriate and effective. Arguing that liberals – -or anyone – -should compromise at the level required in a national election at the primary level is an odd and borderline condescending argument.
And, again, the writer’s reading of the movie is flawed. It isn’t the inability to accept compromise that dooms Holden. It is the realization that the Stantons are on the verge of completely abandoning a core principle that dooms Holden. When Stanton asks toward the end of the movie “But I passed the re-make. Which grade do I get, teach?” the movie is acknowledging that Holden was right, that the Stanton’s first choice was so far from acceptable to their followers that they deserved to lose their support. Their decision — prompted by the loss of their friend — to go another route, to fight back in a more appropriate fashion, is the movie’s “happy ending” so to speak. The Stantons fought back, but, in the end, they didn’t give away all of their core values to do so. It seems odd that someone could argue, then, that the movie means that the liberals should vote for Hilary Clinton in the primary no matter what how far form their positions she may be.
But, then, I’m not the one who thinks a fifteen years old movie written by a stranger provides some sort of window into the soul of Hillary Clinton.