The worst thing about Trump delivering a totally unearned rehabilitation of the reputation of George W. Bush is that there is a Bush in public office now who could pretty plausibly find himself on a national ticket in eight years or so. This would be a terrible thing for everybody. Trump likely doesn’t have much more than another three years of malevolence in him, but the Bushes could do damages for decades yet. Admittedly, it isn’t for sure but it’s a whole lot more likely if the public has decided that George W. Bush wasn’t all that bad. That’s why Bushworld isn’t dead yet.

OTOH, Clintonworld is completely dead, even if they don’t know it. There’s nothing in the pipeline in terms of future candidates. The remaining entourage around them are the most loyal to them, but as I wrote earlier, also largely this group couldn’t get hired to do anything else but fluff the Clintons. What campaign would hire Philippe Reines, an illiberal hothead who sucks at his job as a PR guy, for any role whatsoever? Even if Chelsea decided that she wanted that golden crown, it would take some time such that she wouldn’t instantly be dismissed as a nepotism case, and frankly Bill and Hillary aren’t young. I just don’t see how it works. You’d think that would be pretty obvious, but really the only Democrat who actually seems to understand this is, unsurprisingly, Kirsten Gillibrand. (I’m not sure Donna Brazile understands much of anything these days.)


Philippe Reines, Official Photo

It’s certainly possible that the Clintons could exert some pull in the 2020 primaries–probably not much more than as senior figures who endorse a candidate to put him/her over the top though you never know–but Philippe Reines’s gangster threat here is much more Don Fanucci than Young Vito Corleone. “Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.” Of course, if you’ve ever actually seen The Godfather, you’d know that vague threats that the individual making them couldn’t possibly deliver on are an indicator of weakness, not strength (that Trump does this all the time really should tell you all you need to know about the efficacy of this strategy). You have to wonder if he ran this one by Hillary Clinton before putting it out there. Honestly I’m not sure what the answer to that might be.

Again, for all I know we’ll have a dozen candidates all neck and neck and then Hillary will endorse and then that person will win. I don’t know! But I’m skeptical because the vaunted Clinton machine didn’t work against Obama, and the reason it didn’t work against Obama was because pretty much everybody Clinton relied upon in 2008 were incompetent fools. She got the nomination in 2016 but when we look back on it in history 2016 is going to be the Democrats’ 1976, even if Bernie Sanders is unlikely to be the Democrats’ Reagan for age reasons alone. But now they’re going to be left with only the least talented and most loyal people to carry out their schemes, such as Reines, given that Clintonworld has no future and anybody with even a modicum of talent and any ambition beyond writing nasty tweets on behalf of a dying dynasty is going to do that. Best of luck.

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This is pretty hilarious because he was such a cocky asshole when he left the White House, bragging about how he was going to command the biggest paydays around. But Sean Spicer isn’t flopping as a moneygrabber because he’s a disgrace, he’s flopping at it because he doesn’t understand the difference between respectability and respect. It’s hard to actually come up with an argument for why Spicey was worse than, say Tony Snow or Dana Perino as Republican White House chief propagandists, as the latter two did the exact same stuff that Spicey did, distorting and lying to reporters while occasionally giving them enough to assuage their both sides consciences. But they did it in measured and restrained tones, always respecting the privileges and reputations of the individual reporters in the pool and all that. Spicer didn’t do that. He basically did what he thought Trump wanted him to do and abused people, insulted their intelligence too much, didn’t understand which lies are accepted and which lies are not and just hollered away. You can tell a lot of lies and get away with it, but you can’t lie so much that it would make reporters look bad not to question it. Tony Snow was respectable. So is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Spicer just didn’t show respect. And then Trump got bored of him and fired him (in effect, by bringing in The Mooch), and now his fifteen minutes is done and he couldn’t parley it in time. Doubt he’ll be begging on a street corner or anything but I get the sense that anodyne wingnut welfare isn’t enough for the man, but that’s all he’s going to get. Still better than he deserves, but in a way it’s sort of the perfect punishment. Brings this to mind:

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Feel like this kind of hits all the bases. Ultrasmarmy cultural conservatives making sweeping arguments when they even admit that they have no knowledge of the details; dour, lecturing feminists who are so desperate to be relevant that they will toss out any and all liberal values to make their point; some Democratic politician openly defending censorship because that’s what they were doing back then. Man was this country in a bad place back then. Oh, and a metric ton of unproven assertions trotted out as fact, mainly about youth violence, that somehow doesn’t mention all those guns lying around. This really has it all!

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Here’s the whole movie for you freeloaders out there:

The Plot: Whales!

What Doesn’t Work: This is one of the weirdest things ever to be inserted into a Star Trek movie, or any mainstream movie:


It’s really weird that a Star Trek movie had time for several minutes of an experimental short film in the middle of it. On the one hand it’s different and strange in a way that some people like. On the other, for an experimental film, it’s pretty simple to understand and decode. Why go avant-garde if you’re going to keep it so simple? It’s ultimately sort of a shallow gesture, trying to give people a feeling of unearned sophistication. After a few watches for me it’s just, why is this here? Aside from Leonard Nimoy liking it, I have no idea.

The soundtrack also kind of sucks. Worst one in the original batch of films, and the lack of either James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith as a composer is felt here. I particularly dislike the bit of jazzy ’80s music when they’re first walking the streets of San Francisco, it jars more and more as I watch the film. There’s too much whimsy here and elsewhere, and while it doesn’t kill the humor, it’s just kind of precious and annoying. It’s what I imagine a bad Eddie Murphy movie from the era would be soundtracked to, like Best Defense, perhaps.

Also, is Sarek really such a big deal that he can walk into any room he pleases? Actually, I take it back. I’m not going to be the one to tell him no.

What Does Work: Star Trek is not often that great at comedy. This is an exception. The middle part of the film finds some great fish-out-of-water gags without making “modern” San Francisco seem unrealistically crazy. I actually quite like its take on mid-80s SF, what with its blue collar feel, checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurants, furious cab drivers, one last punk rocker, passive-aggressive doctors, and beautiful idealists. Quite a lot has changed, but it feels pretty credible as a snapshot of the time, if a bit less scuzzy than it actually was.

I guess it’s well-known that Eddie Murphy was supposed to play this role. I like a lot of Eddie Murphy’s output during this era but I think it would have been a bad move, because I’m not sure they would have been able to resist overdoing it and having him basically do his act for the movie. And while the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies did have him mixing drama and comedy quite well, there’s no way it wouldn’t have been distracting stunt-casting, with Murphy probably taking over the movie. Plus, Shatner and Hicks have a nice, understated semi-romance that I really do like and wouldn’t want to lose. I don’t really think the most-quoted scene in the movie would have worked with Eddie Murphy:


This is not a very deep movie. There are no profound ruminations on death or duty. It’s just a fun comedy with a pro-ecology message, and that’s fine! I actually think it’s a great change of pace, and one of the things I really do respect about the original cast run of movies is how they weren’t repeating themselves. Each movie is different, has a different look and feel, different themes. They’re not always great but at least there was some suspense as to what you were going to get. Now you know at least 25% of what you’re going to get from each movie, which makes it less fun to me.

Legacy: It’s generally regarded as good, full of solid character moments and quality comedy, if a bit on the light side. I’d argue it’s underrated, actually. It’s light and dismissed a little for it, but it works well for what it aims to be. Making good comedy is HARD! Nimoy didn’t exactly hit a home run with The Search For Spock but this is a major step forward for him as a director. They say that comedy is easier to direct but harder to write, and he definitely has a stronger script with this one, but I also think it is well-directed. There’s a nice use of framing with some of the gags, like the huge Yellow Pages ad. Mostly, though, the jokes are verbal and he keeps out of the way of the dialog, with a nice, minimalistic style. It’s exactly the right approach, and requires a certain lack of ego that a lot of directors don’t have. And look, much of this is silly, but it doesn’t matter one damn bit. It’s funny and lively throughout.

Also, good movies are hard to review, but good comedies are the hardest, because what can you say a lot of the time, other than, “It’s funny!” There’s a nice character arc for Spock, I guess, and the ending is also really damned satisfying. That’s all.


I don’t really get how if you’re a Democrat running for president and you want to be a great one (as I imagine they all do), you get the notion that the way to do that is through bipartisanship. Setting aside Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for the moment, in the last 100 years you have exactly two periods of this, the last two years of Woodrow Wilson’s second term and the last two of Harry Truman’s first term. Both times it was really, really bad. Wilson fought Republicans so hard on the League of Nations that he had a stroke, though it’s pretty fair to blame much of that on Wilson himself. During the divided period under Truman Taft-freaking-Hartley passed over his veto. Both periods were pretty much the same in terms of Congressional Republicans blocking virtually all of the president’s domestic priorities, though in Truman’s case they did work with him on foreign policy. At any rate, it was pretty much “Hell no!” both times. Clinton was perhaps a little different in that he actually did get a lot of wins from negotiating with Republicans, but that was because he was willing to accept a number of right-wing ideas in order to make himself more popular. Theoretically this was supposed to trickle down to Democrats in general but it never really did. After all, they were one of the sides he was triangulating from.

Look, I’m not here to make the case that Bill Clinton was a horrible president whose true horribleness only became obvious years after he left office because we’ve done that many times before. Why I am here is to make a simple point, which is that there really is zero precedent for a Democratic president to convince a Republican Congress to substantially adopt a center-left program. Just none. Democrats have historically been willing to deal with Republican presidents to advance a center-right program but that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

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Quite apart from what’s going on on social media, the real reason why people on the internet are such assholes is that they’re all chasing after the same small pool of ad money, which means chasing clicks, which means that there’s every incentive to blow up every little infraction into a world-ending calamity because that’s what gets clicks. Why did we care about that poor woman who made an unfunny joke before flying to South Africa? I don’t know but it was all about clicks. And honestly, as heinous as Gamergate was, that was all about clicks too. Who really cares about some stranger’s dating habits? But it got clicks. I get that this is a pretty basic insight, but it’s something I need to remind myself of a lot to explain things. And honestly, thanks to the internet it’s become really, really easy to rile people up about things that don’t matter but just push buttons. Not that it’s all that, you occasionally see something positive go viral, and definitely there have been times where the internet aimed for the right targets and forced governments or businesses to make changes. And yet, the internet is what it is, and unless the entire economic model of it fails (which is certainly a possibility), it’s unlikely to change.

I do interact a lot with people in their early 20s and even though I’m only a decade older I do feel like an old fogy a lot of the time. Like when I tell them what the internet used to be like. It’s not like everything was better ten, fifteen years ago–when there was even less money but much less competition for it–but it really was a different place before “clickbait” became a thing. That was more a symptom than a cause, but then even the good people started writing just a little bit toward that format and then…

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Yes, I know that expression has long passed its sell-by date, but there’s really just no better way to put it. Reality keeps presenting us with this weird echo of eight years ago and while I can appreciate the artfulness of it, come on, it’s just not any fun. Consider:

  1. The 2008 election coined the obnoxious “game change” series, even though Obama was strongly expected to win thanks to then-new data models and events didn’t change that. Even though it gave birth to that horrible term it also refuted it. But in 2016 Clinton was strongly expected to win throughout based on the same mathematical models that worked solidly the last two elections, but lost largely due to last minute game change-y bullshit.
  2. Obama entered office with huge popularity which came to Earth pretty quickly as Republicans quickly formed a grassroots (ish?) movement to oppose him. Trump entered office with historic unpopularity and the grassroots opposition began even before the inauguration.
  3. Obama restored American standing in the world and its diplomatic relationships simply by not being Bush, and though while Trump has done some specific things to bug other countries like withdrawing from Paris, he’s put that standing back in the toilet mainly because he’s an obnoxious shit who can’t quit social media.
  4. Obama got Democrats bogged down with health care which, while ultimately successful, dragged on for much too long and sapped Democrats’ popularity. Trump got Republicans bogged down on health care, got nothing, and sapped Republicans’ popularity.
  5. Obama spent endless time trying to win over the half-dozen or so least conservative Republicans to support major planks of his agenda. Trump has barely even tried to entice conservative Democrats outside of a couple of photo-op type events. It’s as though he’s barely bothering to show he tried. (Though he and Obama have the same amount to show for it, I suppose.)
  6. Republicans won a fluky Senate victory in a very liberal state because Democrats nominated an unusually awful candidate, and while I would certainly not say it’s a certainty or even much better than even money, it’s certainly a strong possibility that the reverse will happen soon.

All I can say is that, while I appreciate the effort involved in creating such a perfect thesis-antithesis pair, with its many bizarre resonances and fascinating turns, I’ve had enough. You can do better, reality.