Apt Skewering

Whatever you may think of Camille Paglia, I found the characterizations of original field Republican presidential hopefuls in her Salon piece amusingly apt:

The humiliating wholesale rejection of cash-glutted Jeb Bush, dynastic crown prince, should have clued the GOP moguls into how out of touch they are with primary voters this year. Jeb’s first mistake (perhaps due to his wife’s dislike of the public eye) was not to run for president soon after serving as Florida governor, when he still had his chops. His second mistake was to loaf on the sidelines and play no role whatever in public debates over pressing national issues. By the time he returned to the scene, he was both uncertain and irrelevant. Then someone foolishly prodded him to lose weight, which reduced his gravitas along with the flab by now highlighting his bland, snub-nosed baby face.

Another victim of perpetual-boy syndrome is Marco Rubio, who at 44 seems to have strangely stalled in post-pubescence. How is it possible that Rubio played football (defensive back) in college and none of it shows? During high-wire gigs in Washington or at the primary debates, he chronically flubbed, either by autopilot glibness or painfully palpable anxiety attacks. Oh, right, we’re going to have this skittish, sweaty guy with five o’clock shadow and a bad comb-over going toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin. Rubio seems bright and affable, but there’s nothing remotely presidential about him.

As for the rest of the GOP pack, they all flamed out in one way or another. Despite his bold history of confronting and defeating the greedy public-sector unions, Scott Walker with his wide, wary eyes and pretty-boy pout looked like a deer caught in the headlights at the first debate. Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul also struggled with boy-regression—is this a Republican disease? On TV, the snarly, petulant Paul, with his sprig of retro forehead curls, looked like a mummified Dorian Gray dressed by Sears Roebuck, circa 1959.

Carly Fiorina: smart and nimble but too taut and wired, like a buzz saw. Too much of a political novice and without Trump’s bumptious exuberance and slashing humor. Her campaign imploded when she went all histrionic (voice tragically breaking) about the secretly taped Planned Parenthood videos, a serious issue that the mainstream media had tried to bury but that should not have been used for blatant political grandstanding. Ben Carson: a thoughtful, dignified private citizen with an illustrious medical career. But was he ever remotely credible as a statesman on the international stage in the age of terrorism? His rote deep-think mode was to close his eyes and press his fingers together, like Madame Arcati conducting a séance in Blithe Spirit.

Chris Christie: the lib Manhattan media just loved him to death. He was their fave Republican—he licked their boots, and they licked his. This blathering, gassy, waddling narcissist with his over-trimmed Pinocchio nose and lispy, quacking voice never had a prayer of a chance on the national stage. The Christie boomlet was always a media mirage. John Kasich: the man who could have been king. I think Kasich won the first GOP debate but then blew it. He has exactly the kind of gubernatorial executive experience and legislative budget-balancing record that are sorely needed in the White House. But Kasich’s unfocused, overblown, compulsively self-referential rhetoric is a major liability. And his skills as a public figure are embarrassingly rudimentary: he blurts, lurches, and waves his arms around like a windmill. He lacks patience, subtlety, and finesse. Not presidential.

Sadly, deft, concise skewering of public figures is all but a lost art in the United States. Too much political commentary devolves into not much more than “Oh, yeah?”. I’m always reminded of this scene from the movie It Happened One Night:

I agree with her that a Trump v. Clinton match-off will be a national nightmare. I disagree with the way she’s characterized it. I think it will be more like Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster except without the rubber suits.

8 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds Link

    Paglia is wrong about this:

    Trump may be raw, crude and uninformed, but he’s also smart, intuitive and a quick study who will presumably get up to passable speed as he assembles a brain trust over the coming months. Whether Trump can temper his shoot-from-the-hip impetuosity is another matter.

    No, he is not smart, nor is he a quick study. He is absolutely intuitive, and smart people (like Paglia) mistake that instinct for intelligence. But actually Trump is lazy, thoughtless and very immature for a man of 70.

  • Andy Link

    Another good piece of writing – she’s always enjoyable to read. She won’t be alone in voting for someone besides a major party candidate.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    Trump isn’t thoughtless, he’s a master communicator who understands humans far bettet than Clinton. He knows we are driven by passions and his appeals to the public reflect this; only a fool thinks this approach inferior to Clinton’s “it will never, ever get better so shut up” campaign message.

    Trump hasn’t memorized the nomenclature associated with the state department but knows human psychology. Clinton sounds great, turns knowledge into failure at every turn and can’t grasp the nuances of our motivations.

    In light of this, who is to say which candidate is intelligent and which is not?

  • jan Link


    That was a good nutshell capsulation of Trump’s appeal versus Hillary’s non-appeal. It has long been understood how important the inculcation of charisma, tone, and empathic veneers are for those running for elective office. After all, for words to be effective, they have to seduce and cajole people into believing someone finally understands an electorate’s pain and consequently their needs. This has become especially powerful, in the current era, where party elites are seen to be choosing “winners and losers,” aided and abetted by overall government neglect, bureaucratic abusive lies, and a future of doom and gloom for as far as the eye can see.

  • michael reynolds Link


    I’ll bet you a drink Trump’s IQ is less than 120. Not sure how we’re going to discover this. . .

  • michael reynolds Link

    A really smart guy would look beyond the primary to winning a general in which more than half of voters will be women. So no, he’s not smart, he’s a creature of instinct. Cruz is smarter – although apparently no better at controlling his libido. The current Twitter witticism is that Cruz is in the midst of a Cuban Mistress Crisis.

  • jan Link

    I’ll bet you a drink Trump’s IQ is less than 120.

    A high IQ is not necessarily the end-all-be-all ingredient for success. In fact, monstrous IQs can oftentimes act more as impediments than advantages, especially for those who don’t know how to apply their gifts. That natural born instinct, Ben was alluding to, which is kind of like an internal “wisdom,” can actually take a person further….but, again, only if it’s judiciously used.

  • I’ll bet you a drink Trump’s IQ is less than 120. Not sure how we’re going to discover this. . .

    Prior to 1994 SAT scores were closely correlated with IQ (whatever that is). According to his disclosed SAT scores, he has an IQ somewhere north of 150. He did well at Wharton, too.

    Success in life isn’t particularly well associated with IQ, at least not above a certain point. Social-emotional development is probably a more important factor.

    You might want to recalibrate your views of Trump, Michael. IMO Ben’s description is closer. I think he’s run a very smart campaign so far. He’s been strategically dominating the news cycle. By doing that he’s received millions in free advertising and attracted a following. Not to mention the decade during which NBC gave him a platform.

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