‘I’ ON CULTURE
I was watching a wonderful old move, Dave, a classic of the early 1990s, and although I enjoyed it, I wound up feeling sad. In the film, Dave (Kevin Kline) is a regular guy who runs an employment agency in Georgetown with a side job impersonating the president of the United States (not difficult because Kline played both roles). When the president has a stroke during an illicit rendezvous, his treacherous assistants (Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn) get Dave to take over.
The problem for them is that Dave is a regular guy, one of us. He actually believes that the role of government is to help the people. He has spent his adult life helping people find jobs. That, of course, puts him at odds with his government-based supposed subordinates, who simply go behind his back.
After he discovers that funding for daycare shelters has been cut from the budget, shelters that the first lady (Sigourney Weaver) supports, he takes action. In one of the best scenes from any political movie ever, using knowledge gained from his brilliant accountant Murray Blum (Charles Grodin), he holds a televised cabinet meeting where he quizzes officials about ways to cut other programs to save the shelters. Watching him ask the secretary of commerce, “Is it really worth that many millions of dollars to pay for a program to help people who have already bought used cars feel better about their purchases rather than help these children?” and seeing the official, with TV cameras watching, forced to agree, is precious.
Of course in the end, the bad guys set him up to be destroyed, forgetting that he is not really the president. So he fakes a stroke, the real president is brought forward, the vice president takes over and he goes back to finding jobs.
What I found most striking is the idea that people in government should care about us. Is there anyone around who really believes they do? Look at the situation with the COVID-19 vaccine. Officials in many states condemned the federal government for not getting the doses out fast enough even though it was revealed that in many states, doses were waiting on shelves because the states have not set up effective programs. In some cases, the waiting caused the vaccines to be spoiled.
Even worse, the politicians at first said that the first recipients would be medical professionals “on the front lines” and then senior citizens. Then it was quietly decided that government officials, even those who were so young that they were extraordinarily unlikely to die from the disease, counted as more important than seniors so they were jumped to the front of the line to get their shots.
Following that bit of news, came a few stories about shots being given to the even younger staff members of those politicians. All this while seniors wait. There were even some stories that some politicians were quietly pushing the idea that the government officials needed their families protected by shots before they could get down to the business of protecting others.
In New York, Gov. Cuomo is now talking about taking care of seniors who are over 75 while having those between 65 and 75 wait until the vaccines go out to municipal unions to distribute to their members of all ages. I am certain, and know you will agree, that it is just a coincidence that those unions are the backbone of his support. Grandma, well, she might die but at least you won’t have to watch her go because you’ll be forbidden to see her near the end.
Now these are just current problems. We face so many of them and yet our public officials barely take notice. Oh, they are quick to condemn those of whichever party is not theirs for a whole variety of slights. Blaming others is the name of the game. The people who really count with the pols are those who can provide votes and funding to keep them in office. All politicians claim to be great humanitarians; most only care about themselves. Why wasn’t government ready to distribute vaccines? We knew they were being worked on for months. But wasn’t there anyone interested enough in the welfare of the people to set up the framework for fast distribution before we had the current mess?
Frankly, we need more like Dave.