has hidden shallows

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.


Sat 27

Vote 1 Whoever Has The Ugliest Vice

What Max Reckons Harrison Ford for President, Alan Greenspan for Vice-PresidentI just noticed that a strong candidate in the race for next President of the United States is Fred Thompson. Fred played the District Attorney on Law & Order, and has acted in movies and TV shows as a Senator, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, an admiral, and, indeed, the President.

Now, let me be clear: the US is the world’s leading light when it comes to freedom and democracy. Anybody who disagrees deserves the wiretappings, slur campaigns, arrest, and/or bombings they get. But come on: Fred Thompson? Isn’t that purely because people will think, “Yeah, he seems like he should be in a position of authority… for… some… reason.”

I have trouble with the whole idea of actors as politicians. We’re electing someone whose primary skill is pretending. Maybe it’s just me, but a guy who has spent most of his life honing the ability to lie convincingly; that makes me uncomfortable. Electing that guy seems to say, “Look, we don’t care what you get up to. Just make sure you look earnest about it.”

I understand a little. After all, we’ve all got to look at whoever gets elected for the next four years. They might as well be pretty. Then there are those international conferences, where the leaders of multiple countries get together to usher in new eras of co-operation and outsourcing. Sometimes they wear funny shirts. You can’t send some shy, weedy nerd to that. Well, you can. Australia does. But it’s embarrassing. You know if Arnold Schwarzenegger was President, he might be a policy disaster but America would look totally rocking in the APEC group photo. And while I’m not totally sure how these international agreements get formed, physicality has to be involved to some degree. I’m not saying they decide carbon emissions targets by sealing the doors, stripping to the waist, and grappling for supremacy. There’s no way Bush could have taken Schroeder. That man is huge. But maybe late in the day, when everyone’s tired, having Schwarzenegger plant his ham-sized fists on France’s desk could close the deal.

The ideal, then, must be job-sharing. You have a strong, good-looking President to shake hands at the UN, and a smart, ugly President to stay home and make the tough decisions. Americans have clearly figured this out already, and it explains Bush-Cheney. And why Kerry lost in 2004: he’s got a face like his pet hamster just died, while his running mate, Edwards, is too good-looking. You’d worry that Edwards would be at a tanning salon while Britain and France were sniggering at mean drawings of Kerry during his speech at G8. That ticket just didn’t make sense.

The more physically attractive the President, the uglier the Vice should be, to compensate. It’s the Conservation of Beauty principle.

Now Harrison Ford and Alan Greenspan: that would be a hot ticket. You wouldn’t even have to know their policies. You would just look at that coupling of Ford’s wild charisma with a guy as old as God and something inside you would click.


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Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 4316 days ago

I guess the news is slow to reach Australia, Max. Fred Thompson was seen as the great hope of the right a few months back, but since he's started running, he's been laughably bad, really stinking up the joint. His campaign is going nowhere.

He's embarrassingly bad when he has to think on his feet; he practically looks senile. He's dumb and ugly. But he does have a hot trophy wife, who's half his age.

Douglas Bushong (#44)

Location: America (Virginia)
Quote: "When you are trying to teach someone a new job, it's best to just throw them into the fire and beat them. They'll get sharp or they'll break. Either way, you won't waste precious time teaching them a job that they aren't meant to do."
Posted: 4316 days ago

It seems a bit disingenuous to characterize him as a purely Hollywood actor. You might not know this, but Fred Thompson was a lawyer and a career politician long before he went to Hollywood.

I only mention this because I really like your blog, and I hate to see someone slamming people for inappropriate reasons. If Tom Selleck or Martin Sheen ran for office, I could see this argument, but Fred Thompson has some chops in Washington.

That said, I get the point of the blog. Personally, the only thing that I can say about Fred Thompson's politics is that I don't know anything about Fred Thompson's politics. I do find it frustrating when I see people cheering for him even though they don't know is politics either. They hear the slight southern accent, the matter-of-fact tone, and think "I should follow that guy."

lyssabits (#1444)

Location: San Francisco, CA
Quote: ""Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.""
Posted: 4315 days ago

I'd vote for Martin Sheen if Aaron Sorkin was his running mate. Bartlet for America! ;)

Adam (#580)

Location: Hotel Lobbies (with Winona Ryder)
Quote: "I want to be famous. Really famous."
Posted: 4315 days ago

The best thing for Thompson is to shut his molasses-gummed mouth, and just keep riding his brand: "Ronald Reagan Resurrected: America's Great White Hope." This strategy represents a parallel to Goebbels' Big Lie, in that you let others keep repeating the same things about you until they stick. I mean, if everyone started saying, "Coke cures cancer," do you think Coca-Cola would come out and say, "No, but it will eat away at your stomach lining like some gin-mad piranha?" Of course not--they'd make a half-hearted attempt at humble denial, while silently stoking the fires of miraculous rumor.

So, Fred, ol' buddy, lose the politician bit and keep riding the dead cowboy train straight on till Morning in America.

Thomas (#1221)

Location: Germany
Quote: "One more, and I'm going to consider you my penpal."
Posted: 4315 days ago

Assuming that you were referring to the German ex-chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, he's not that tall (174cm, somewhere around 5'8 for the non-metricians).

Admittedly, his head is huge. But... I think you could take him.

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 4315 days ago

Thomas is right: If you think Schröder's huge, you've obviously never seen his predecessor:

That guy's as big as a house. I think he became chancellor by threatening people that he would literally eat them. And people were so afraid that they kept him in office for 16 years.

Apart from that, determining international policies by physical combat is always a good idea. Isn't that how the Japanese parliament does it?

Adam A. (#256)

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." -George Carlin"
Posted: 4315 days ago

It's definitely funny that we are such a celebrity-tabloid culture that we love to elect actors as our leaders. It still trips me out to see Schwarzenegger being a politician. Very surreal.
You've got it right about Cheney being the brains behind Bush's good-ole boy, simpleton persona. Too bad he uses his smarts for evil, though.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 4315 days ago

Max, while I appreciate your humorous commentary on our politicians (or potential politicians), I find it really uncomfortable to discuss politics directly just for a laugh... Sure you can laugh, but it is not really funny when you are one of those citizens riding this spiraling vortex of doom as our government officials drive us into the ground. You are much better off commenting on it satirically through your novels than in this fashion.
Sorry for the lecture, but as I was just visiting Washington, DC for the weekend, I am kinda full up on the political stuff.

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4315 days ago

Fred Thompson isnt pretty...he looks like the lovechild between a cocker-spaniel and a pile of crap...with the ability to insemintate dogs...yeah.

Flynn (#520)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Posted: 4315 days ago

While I don't totally agree with Linnea, it's not exactly fun to kick a country while it's down. And we're definitely down.

BTW, thankfully, Schwartzenegger can't be president, he's not a natural born citizen. However, it is funny that every once in a while when someone pops up in a party who's a good candidate but not born here, <A HREF="">someone in Congress muses about changing that law</A>.

Flynn (#520)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Posted: 4315 days ago

Wow, if you could fix my last post, Max, that would be great.

Melvin Smiley (#3200)

Location: Germany
Quote: ""Life is nasty and it seemed pointless to say so!""
Posted: 4314 days ago

"I have trouble with the whole idea of actors as politicians."

Maybe you, but not science. In 1970 Dr. Myron L. Fox held a lecture about "Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education," which was very well received by his listeners (all participants of the University of Southern California School of Medicine's educational programme). After one hour lecture he answered questions.
The only problem with Myron L. Fox was the fact, that he wasn't a doctor, didn't know anything about game theory. He was an actor who read an article concerning the topic, made up his speach consisting of "double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradictory statements … interspersed with parenthetical humor and meaningless references to unrelated topics."
Even after the scenario was uncovered some of the audiance asked about further reading.
So if medical personal learns more from actors than from actual medics, maybe actors also govern better. And if not it would at least be more entertaining.

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 4314 days ago

> Max, while I appreciate your humorous commentary on our politicians (or potential politicians), I find it really uncomfortable to discuss politics directly just for a laugh...

And you had no problem with Max discussing, for a laugh, someone chopping up and cooking three women? Which certainly isn't funny to read when you're their relatives stumbling over this blog? Funny priorities you have there, Linnea.

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 4314 days ago

"I have trouble with the whole idea of actors as politicians."

John Wilkes Booth made the argument for actors as assassins. Which is part of the reason why I'm keeping my eye on Ann Heche.

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 4314 days ago

Not to further pile on Linnea (he said, jumping on the pile), but I'm not sure where you can draw a reasonable or meaningful distinction between joking about politics "directly" in conversation or blogging and commenting on it through satirical fiction. Your comment seems well meaning and part of me appreciates your earnestness, but I'd encourage you to think about it more.

There are some critics who put down programs like "The Daily Show" (is there a version of the show that airs in Australia?) and "The Colbert Report" because, they argue, they encourage apathy and a lack of seriousness about the political process. As if satire and seriousness were somehow mutually exclusive. Aren't our brains capable of juggling both? Can't both inform the other? In a lot of ways, I think a sense of humor about a subject can lend not only valuable perspective but also an energizing sense of empowerment.

Just because you laugh or even mock something upon occasion doesn't mean you can't also be seriously engaged in it as well. As they cliche goes, sometimes if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

Talking about lectures and earnestness. I totally ruined the joke of my last post.

Brenng (#3235)

Location: UK (sitting down)
Quote: "Laugh when all the world cries and they'll lock you up for being an antisocial freak. - there's a laugh in there somewhere!"
Posted: 4311 days ago

Dude, what about the wimin?

Julia Roberts to sell the soap and Buffy the Vamipire Slayer to do the arse kicking!

I'd vote for that combination. If I could vote in America.

Machine Man subscriber Toby O (#2900)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "You can't sell your soul to the devil if he's not buying"
Posted: 4307 days ago

I know this comment is Johnny-Come-Late, but wouldn't it be simpler, and slightly less sensational if we (in America) had a prime minister who could announce an election, and he set the date for 7 weeks after the announcement? On the other hand, that only sells 7 weeks of newspapers and TV programming, and maybe 1 more week about the sore loser, so 8 in total, then it's back to news about Keith Urban Who Might Relapse Anytime. I guess it's not a great strategy, since thousands of news and TV jobs would be lost, and where would those workers go? to the mines.

nohah! (#3330)

Posted: 4307 days ago

In that case I'd vote for Cheech and Chong.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 4306 days ago

If I was American, and they were running, I'd probably vote for Ford/Greenspan. Although I think I'd prefer an Uma Thurman/Nancy Pelosi ticket.

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