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Barack and Dave

This is about Barack Obama’s relationship to a charming, well-meaning but ultimately rather contemptible chap called Dave.

This Dave. Another guy called Lawrence also comes into it as well.

I loathe the film Dave. As entertainment it’s fine. Politically it is a liberal (US sense) wish fulfillment fantasy with the sole redeeming virtue that it implicitly acknowledges that the only way they would get their way is by lies. In it a nice but dopey guy called Dave substitutes for his double, the philandering, i.e. Republican, President of the United States. The switch was intended to be just for one appearance at first but ends up being permanent when the President has a stroke.

From the synopsis: “When he takes the extreme action of reworking (with the help of his friend Murray, an accountant from Baltimore) the national budget in order to save a $650 million program for helping the homeless … ” When he takes the extreme action, you mean, of foisting on the American people a programme they did not vote for and presumably voted against when they elected a President who opposed it. Again from the synopsis: “…Dave convinces her [the president's wife] to remain and keep up the ruse, when he realizes he has a chance to improve the nation.” You mean, a chance to impose his will on the nation. “Dave then holds a news conference announcing that he is firing Alexander [conniving Chief of Staff], and proposing a comprehensive full-employment program to Congress. [Liberal wish fulfillment fantasy.]

For some reason the film does not cover the bit where he gets hammered in the mid-term elections, having suddenly proposed a lunatic plan to Congress that seems to come from the manifesto of the sort of party that Ralph Nader voted for when young and silly.

None of the nice characters in the film seem troubled by the idea what they are doing – unconstitutionally replacing the elected leader with an unelected leader who takes the country in the direction he personally thinks best – scarcely differs morally from a coup d’état. All is justified by Dave’s goodness.

The plot of Dave, a movie that deeply annoys me, is very close to that of a science fiction novel I love, Heinlein’s Double Star.

Can I think of a better reason than political partisanship for claiming that the people who substituted Dave Kovic for a political leader in a coma in Dave acted wrongly and the people who substituted Lawrence Smith a.k.a. The Great Lorenzo for a political leader in a coma in Double Star acted rightly? I think so. Heinlein, who had thought deeply about democracy even if he did not always like it, went to some trouble to give John Joseph Bonforte’s staff as little choice as possible.

Most urgently, if Bonforte does not turn up at a Martian ceremony in which he is to be adopted into a Martian clan it will be taken as an insult graver than any human can imagine and will probably cause inter-species war. That’s the whole reason he was kidnapped.

Secondly Bonforte is not out of commission because of natural causes but because his political enemies kidnapped him and used drugs to damage his mind. In other words the substitution is stopping the bad guys benefiting from their evil deeds. People are being deceived, yes, but the deceivers are doing all they can to make what would have happened without the crime happen despite it, not to make new things happen.

Oh yeah, thirdly, he is not actually in office when the substitution occurs. The voters are not having someone they did not vote for secretly substituted for someone they did; they are subject to the lesser deception of being asked to vote anew (in an election part-way through the book) for someone who is not really who he says he is. I think that makes a difference.

Anyway, back to Barack. This “secret Muslim” theory is conspiracy crap, or possibly people having a laugh when answering surveys. He was born in the US and Trig is Palin’s child so you can all put away your warming pans. And the man has a rather distinctive physical appearance that would be difficult to duplicate.

Bodily he is but morally he is not the Barack who campaigned as a centrist. Which deceiver does he resemble the most, do you think, Dave or the Great Lorenzo?

Added later: I would like to expand on my last sentence above in the light of thoughts prompted by the comments. Having an elected leader diverge from the manifesto he or she was elected upon is sometimes the price you pay and sometimes the benefit you get for electing a human being rather than an automaton. Human beings adapt to circumstances, which may include justifiably breaking a promise. They also deceive or – and this is an interesting case – are happy to let others deceive themselves. Caveat emptor.

25 comments to Barack and Dave

  • Mike James

    I thought Heinlein did a pretty good job of making a Westminster style parliamentary system of government understandable to those of us used to a U.S. type federal system.

  • Moss

    BTW, your link to Double Star has an extra “-mark

  • Thanks for spotting that, Moss. I’ve fixed it now.

  • Daveon

    Bodily he is but morally he is not the Barack who campaigned as a centrist.

    Indeed he is not. He’s been significantly more right of center than that in office. Hardly a surprise though. Managed to pee off a lot of his base in the process though for scat political reward.

  • RAB

    And the man has a rather distinctive physical appearance that would be difficult to duplicate.

    Yes, well not many people look like Alfred E Newman do they?

  • Mike in Oregon

    “Managed to pee off a lot of his base in the process though for scat political reward.”

    Ummm, Freudian slip there, Daveon? I hope not! :)

  • I would argue that both sides are demonstrating the basics of free will. Your choices may be constrained by circumstances, but is always ultimately a morally preferable choice compared to all others available.

    The protaginists in Double Star made that choice, even if it wasn’t perfect, the liberals and progressives, who were lauded in Dave, didn’t. Instead they subverted the constitution and staged a coup d’etat. But that’s all ok in movieland, because they were nice with it.

    Synchronicity. I was thinking about this issue, in reference to these two works, just a couple of days ago. If I were a leftie I would be claiming Natalie and I were linked in some mystical way.

    Being sane, I think it is just an amusing coincidence.

  • And don’t forget The American President where the prez is a really good guy because he ends up imposing massive gun control. Anything to stamp on the majority huh?

  • Rich Rostrom

    The original scam in Double Star was justified by all the reasons you mentioned.

    There was no scam intended in the election: Bonforte was expected to resume control when he recovered.

    There was a scam in the substitution of Lorenzo as caretaker Supreme Minister – but the scam was against the Emperor, who saw through it and approved.

    Where the story went off the rails was at the end. Lorenzo was to become the imitation Bonforte in perpetuity. But who would be actually governing the Empire? Bonforte’s staff could execute routine and established policy without him, but what happens when some new question arises? Who decides? Roger Clifton, as secret PM? Or Lorenzo Smythe, who hasn’t got a tithe of Bonforte’s experience or learning? Either way, the voters are not getting what they voted for.

  • Rich,

    On another level the public got exactly what they voted for. The Great Lorenzo campaigned and then delivered.

    It might have been an underhanded attempt to avoid war, but there was no coup.

    In Dave, it was an underhanded attempt to subvert the constitution and keep the VP out.

  • Paul Marks

    “Dave” is more like Joe Biden than Barack Obama.

    Biden (like Dave) really believes that wild government spending is good for the economy. He also has Dave’s lack of grasp on reality – Dave thinks that saving “600 million” Dollars gives him enough money for a major new government entitlement program (this one to “help the homeless”) government entitlement programs actually cost HUNDRED OF BILLIONS of Dollars – soon it will be TRILLIONS.

    Joe Biden is just as at sea with the basic numbers – he also seeks advise from a small business owner (or thinks he does).

    “I regularly go to Katies diner in Deleware – to talk to the customers and the owner, to keep myself grounded in the realities of American life and seek advise” Joe Biden 2008.

    In reality this place closed back in 1989 – since then it has existed only in Joe Biden’s internal fantasy world (which is much like a Hollywood film).

    Barack Obama is quite different, As a man familar with the work of Cloward and Piven (both of whom he knew personally) he knows perfectly well that the function of wild government spending is NOT to “make the contry prosperious” (or other such Keynesian nonsense that people like Vice President Biden really believe in), the function of the wild government spending is BANKRUPT AND DESTROY THE UNITED STATES.

    Cloward and Piven (and the rest of the Marxists) were quite clear on this point – one way or another the existing “system” must be destroyed, so that a “fundementally transformed” society (structure) could be put in its place.

    Barack Obama “the Muslim”.

    Actually the man who started this rumour was Barack Obama himself – by stressing his middle name (long before his campaign started to savagely attack anyone else who stressed it),and boasting of his Indonesian background – even reciting the Muslim call to prayer (in Arabic of course) for journalists.

    Why?

    Partly to see if anyone would run with this – so that they could then be savegly attacked for doing so (“these liars are calling Christian Barack Obama a Muslim”) and partly to DISTRACT ATTENTION.

    Whilst people are arguing over whether Barack Obama is a Muslim or a Christian they miss what he actually is.

    Someone who says (REPEATEDLY) that they belive in “Collective Salvation” can not be a Muslim (as Muslims belive in indivdual salvation), but he can not be a Christian either (for the same reason).

    This is called “hiding in plain sight” – as most people (including virtually all journalists) have not got a clue what “Collective Salvation” and “Liberation Theology” actually are.

  • Paul Marks

    One big mistake Natalie.

    Barack Obama has not just “proposed” a lunatic plan to Congress – HE HAS GOT IT PASSED.

    The Stimulus Bill – now an Act (passed early 2009).

    The rest of the wild spending – passed.

    The Obamacare Bill – now an Act (i.e. passed).

    The Financial Services “Reform” Bill – now an Act (passed a couple of months ago). It enables the Executive branch unlimted power over the entire financial economy – with no more need for Congress to VOTE on bailouts (or anything else).

    The midterms are not going to change any of the above – the Republicans are not going to get the 60 votes in the Senate they need to even repeal any of these things (let alone the votes they need to override a veto).

    For Barack Obama’s point of view it is already “game over” even if he loses both houses of Congress – as he has already done enough to destroy “capitalist” America (over the next few years) by putting place STRUCTURE (such as that created by Obamacare) that the Republicans (even if they had the will) will not be able to repeal.

    And Barack Obama may well be correct.

    Remember Barack Obama is not a Fascist – he has not developed “past” Marxism as Mussolini did or as Hillary Clinton has perhaps done (although with Hillary one must also remember the complex influences of the American Progressive movement – see Jonah Goldberg “Liberal Fascism”).

    Barack Obama is not interested in power for its own sake (I am sure he likes power – but that is not his primary objective). He is quite sincere when he says he would rather be a one term President who does great things than a two term President who does small things – as long as we understand what he means by great things.

    The primary objective of Barack Obama is not power (let alone eternal power) – the primary mission is in fact DESTRUCTION (to destroy “capitalist” America so that……).

    If one has to think in science fiction terms – then think of the “Dark Guardian” in “Dr Who” (in the Tom Baker days).

    And (to the leftists) I am NOT, by using the word “dark”, pointing at Comrade Barack’s skin color (I could not care less about that).

  • John B

    Paul: “Hiding in plain sight”.
    Yes, absolutely!
    I don’t know if his agenda is the complete destruction of the US of A.
    The economy is definitely being crashed. We seem to be heading towards a system of exchange based on the state’s good will and indulgence. We already have it, sure, with fiat currency, but at least it is still, partially, subject to some constraints of common sense.
    And his agenda is also definitely the destruction of western style democracy, individual property, rule of law (as against government dictat), and the restraints on government put into the US Constitution by the Founding Fathers.
    He, and a lot of other people apparently dedicated to the destruction of liberty, seem to be hiding in plain sight.
    And very effectively, too!

  • CountingCats,

    i is in ur hed steeling ur brains!

    Or, as you, suggest, we have both heard a lot of people saying, “This isn’t the Barack Obama I voted for”.

    Rich Rostrom,
    I thought that the point Heinlein was making was that Lorenzo had almost completely become Bonforte – he had intensively studied Bonforte and hence had gained his learning, had taken on his personality as part of his natural imitative facility as a semi-great actor, and eventually, of course, Lorenzo would have plenty of experience of his own combined with the collective experience of Bonforte’s extensive records and the experience of his team.

    A related point is that “Bonforte” wasn’t just Bonforte but also his team. Hence the stress on the Farleyfile and so on.

    That said, I don’t think either of the two ideas above was truly Heinlein’s opinion on the nature of politicians or of individuality; more a group of themes he was exploring as he wrote that story.

  • Paul Marks,

    As ever you give me pause for thought. Yet half of me still sees Obama as a fairly clever, fairly duplicitous machine politician elevated way beyond his talents by an outburst of mass excitement as the prospect of cleansing the racial guilt of America. Marxist when all around him were.

  • mehere

    Oh dear. Methinks you are a shade hard on ‘Dave.’ Entertaining enough film, but it might be important to separate fantasy from reality. Most movies are designed to sell popcorn (or as I saw before one movie: ‘the action starts in the foyer’ so I really ought to have saved 10 quid and spent the evening there)

    As for Mr Obama… a born-in-America-American? Funny enough, there is a question mark or two on that. And the questions don’t quite go away, do they? Someone said that his mom (their phrase) was below the age of majority in Hawaii so as such the wee bairn had to take his dad’s passport.

    In which case… Hey, we Brits have got us a Prezzie!

  • Laird

    CountingCats: Yes, Alfred E. Newman (but I like your version, too).

  • RAB

    Thanks Laird, I knew I had seen that somewhere, but couldn’t remember where. ;-)

    Either way America has a disfunctional cartoon as a President, and he still has 2 years to go. Lord the amount of damage he can yet do.

  • Alasdair

    Hopefully, we will see in January that the (hopefully new) leaders in Congress will have learned from the Congress at the end of the Vietnam War … and will simply refuse to fund *any* of the excessive pieces of legislation passed in the current Congress …

  • mdc

    “Added later: I would like to expand on my last sentence above in the light of thoughts prompted by the comments. Having an elected leader diverge from the manifesto he or she was elected upon is sometimes the price you pay and sometimes the benefit you get for electing a human being rather than an automaton. Human beings adapt to circumstances, which may include justifiably breaking a promise. They also deceive or – and this is an interesting case – are happy to let others deceive themselves. Caveat emptor.”

    Not to good too off-topic, but if one takes democracy’s founding myths seriously (and I know no one really does, but they at least claim to), then why the hell shouldn’t I be able to sue a candidate who doesn’t abide to his manifesto and public statements of intent for breach of contract? I would be able to if he was selling me pet insurance, so why not if he is remoulding the legal fabric of society?

  • Laird

    “Human beings adapt to circumstances, which may include justifiably breaking a promise.”

    Of course, but it goes much farther than that. In our republican form of government, we select our leaders via a democratic process, but what we are voting for is the general character of the candidate, his personal and political philosophy, and (hopefully) his overall intelligence and good sense. Once elected, we should expect our leaders to exercise their own independent judgment when dealing with the myriad issues which inevitably arise. As our representatives, they are supposed to educate themselves on the minutae that the rest of us shouldn’t have to be bothered about, and make decisions accordingly even if it flies in the face of what the electorate thinks it wants. That’s what they’re paid to do. A representative has to vote his conscience, and if a majority of the electorate disagrees with the totality of his decisions he will not be re-elected. But the last thing anyone should want in a representative is a slave to opinion polls, or a hostage to statements made during the election when not in possession of all the relevant facts. If a representative truly believes that he has a better understanding of an issue than does the (largely ignorant) public, I would expect him to vote accordingly, and then deal with the repurcussions.

    I disagree strongly with all of the major legislation which has been enacted during Obama’s term, and I hope that enough of the voters agree with me that we can turn over the government this November. But I don’t fault the Democrats who supported that legislation even in the face of broad-based popular opposition, as long as they truly believed that what they were doing was in the best interest of the country (rather than being based on some cynical political calculation). Better that than a Congress of prostitutes and panderers.

    Our representatives should be persons of conviction and character. If their convictions don’t match those of the electorate they should be voted out of office, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t act on those convictions while in office. It’s the job of each elector to ascertain precisely what those convictions are, and to make sure that they are a good match with his own.

  • But the last thing anyone should want in a representative is a slave to opinion polls, or a hostage to statements made during the election when not in possession of all the relevant facts.

    I agree with you Laird on opinion polls, but not on campaign-time statements. If a candidate is not in possession of all the relevant facts, he should be honest enough to recognize this and not make statements on that particular subject. Or at the very least he should later, when in office, publicly acknowledge his previous ignorance. Now back to reality, where pigs are neither airborne nor honest.

  • Laird

    Well, Alisa, I suppose that depends upon what the “campaign-time statements” were. I agree with you that if a campaign pledge is revoked a public acknowledgement and explanation would be appropriate. But it’s completely unrealistic to expect a candidate “not [to] make statements on that particular subject”, not only because he may have been specifically asked for an opinion but also because he may not even be aware that he is ignorant of material facts.

  • Yep. I could live with an after-the-fact acknowledgment of a mistake too, but honestly, to expect anything honest from politicians is unrealistic.