The GOP Thinks You're an Idiot!

To arms, citizens! Sarah Palin is coming!

From the mouths of babes--There was a charming letter from Sarah Burke in yesterday’s Boston Globe. Burke wondered how Sarah Palin could not know about Paul Revere’s ride, an event with which most elementary school students have familiarity. Burke remarked, “Paul Revere was letting the Minutemen know that the British were coming so they could get their guns. Revere was not letting the British know that the British were coming.” Sarah should know what’s taught in grade school; she’s nine. That’s Sarah Burke; Sarah Palin just acts like she’s nine, a talent she’s currently demonstrating on a cross-country freak show in which she insists she wasn’t wrong about Paul Revere, merely a victim of the “gotcha” media.

Sorry Sarah Palin--you were wrong. Paul Revere was not letting the British know, as she insisted, that they weren’t going to take our guns from us. She’s from Alaska and I’m sure that I could be stumped on an Alaska history question, but Paul Revere’s ride doesn’t exactly fall into the category of esoteric trivia; as Sarah Burke reminds us, it’s something that even nine-year-olds know. Sarah Burke probably has parents who told her it’s not nice to call people names. I forgot that lesson, so allow me: Sarah Palin is a first-class idiot. I’d laugh at her very existence save for one fact: she represents a political party that thinks it’s fine to be an idiot. The Republican Party cultivates morons and calls them office-ready. It banks on the hope that the electorate is dumber than nine-year-olds. The scariest part of all? The party might be right.

Think this is harsh? I wish I could dismiss Palin as an aberration, but the GOP also gave us Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, Christine O’Donnell, Scott Walker, and Paul LePage. To refresh your memory, they gave us--in chronological order of ignominy--the potatoe, weapons of mass destruction, the assertion that the U.S. Constitution does not call for separation of church and state, the belief that public employees shouldn’t have bargaining rights, and the claim that the first female Cabinet officer was a radical leftist. Put all of these subatomic brains together and you don’t crack triple digits on the IQ scale. When I look at today’s Republican Party I wonder if there has been this many dumb people in one place since free beer night at the lobotomy clinic.

Okay, I’m the kind of guy who thinks Bernie Sanders is too conservative, so granted I’m biased. I admit it. But does conservatism have to be so utterly stupid? Now that William Buckley has gone to the Big Tax Break in the Sky, who in the party--aside from George Will and David Brooks--could pass a urine test? Rick Santorum? Mike Huckabee? Michelle Bachman? Ron Paul? Not exactly Plotinus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, are they?

If you are a conservative voter, aren’t you insulted that the party thinks you have the intelligence of a brain-damaged mollusk? If you continue voting for such pandering fools, maybe you do! Just for the record, I’m not saying that the Democrats are much better. If you go back to the IQ scale, they score dull normal at best. I’m not telling anyone to vote for Democrats, but here’s what I do advocate: If a political figure has less intellectual heft than a nine-year-old, tell them to shut up and get lost. Insist that whatever party you support fields candidates who use their brains for something more substantial than preening, parroting nostrums, spreading fear, and playing cavalier with facts. At the end of Sarah Burke’s letter she mockingly suggested that maybe she’s more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin. Given a choice between the two, Burke has my vote!


Secretariat an Alternative View to the Belmont Stakes

Secretariat (2010)

Directed by Randall Wallace

Disney, 123 mins. PG

* * *

No horse has won racing’s Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 and it’s not going to happen in 2011. Who could blame a casual fan who decided to skip the June 11 Belmont Stakes and pop in the DVD of Secretariat instead? After months of being hard to secure as a rental, Secretariat is finally widely available. Is it a great movie? No, but Secretariat (1970-1989) is probably the greatest horse to ever munch oats. In 1973, Secretariat won the Triple Crown and set records in all three races. (A timekeeper’s error robbed the horse of his deserved record in the Preakness.) I can still recall watching Secretariat destroy the field in the Belmont in what may be the most thorough domination of a peer group in professional sports history. It was like Bob Feller facing Little League hitters.

Secretariat the movie tells the story of this remarkable animal and of the Cherney family that owned him, thanks to a bad choice by Ogden Phipps, who shared rights to the offspring of sire Bold Ruler. (Cherney and Phipps yearly tossed a coin for first choice; Phipps won and bet on the wrong horse!) This is a Disney movie, so you know that sentimentality and melodrama will reign, just as you also know that everyone will be straight-teethed, scrubbed, and airbrushed. You could eat off the floor of the horse barns in this film and even mud-covered jockeys look fresh as a daisy. Like most Disney films, it’s also predictable that the American Dream will triumph and that critiques of it will dissolve in the face of shucks-gee whiz wholesomeness. Check out this film’s needless and ridiculous subplot of Penny Cherney Tweedy’s counterculture-wannabe daughter (pop singer A. J. Michalka as a hippie designed by L’Oreal). It’s the worst depiction of the 1960s since Selling Woodstock. You may also have some trouble choking down the performance of Nelsan Ellis as black stable hand Eddie Sweat, who sashays around Penny with wide eyes and a broad smile that border on Stepin’ Fetchit territory. And a few of the scenes between Penny and Secretariat might make you think you’ve accidentally downloaded Dr. Doolittle.

Luckily the actors transcend the PG (for Perfectly Gentile) writing and add the illusion of script depth. Diane Lane plays Penny Tweedy and does a credible job as a woman recovering her girlhood feistiness, thanks to an emergent feminist movement, birth family trauma, and contact with enough chauvinist piggies to open a bacon factory. John Malkovich spouts execrable French as trainer Lucien Laurin, but he’s wicked fun as a swishy misanthrope with an unfortunate wardrobe. Also turning in good performances are Otto Thorwarth as jockey Ron Turcotte, and Margo Martindale as Cherney family secretary Miss Ham, who gave the big red horse his name.

But you can forget all the human actors, because that big red horse is definitely the star of the film. Disney has always excelled in big build-ups to crowning (literally in this case) moments. The horse racing sequences are excellent, even when they were exaggerated. (No horse could make up the deficit in which director Randall Wallace placed Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby.) Wallace puts us at the edge of out seats when the gates open, which is quite a feat because we already know that Secretariat is going to win. My vote for best actor goes to Trolley Boy, the horse discovered by Hollywood in a Secretariat look-alike contest. Call it the best doppelganger performance since Jamie Foxx morphed into Ray Charles.

This is a flawed and predictable film, but a fine way to wile away two hours. Those of you old enough to remember Secretariat will be transported back in time. And for those of you too young, t’is a shame; I doubt his likes will come again.