Rand Paul Is the King of 2014 CPAC
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On a chill if sunny winter's day, Jesse Jackson Jr. reminded the world of the perils of being born on third base and thinking you've hit a triple.
A symbol of entitlement run terribly amok, the former congressman pleaded guilty Wednesday to grossly misusing campaign funds. The juxtaposition of his pain with the far more upbeat reality of a former constituent, Barack Obama, provided its own cautionary note on the perils of hubris and the fragility of success.
Fresh from re-election and golf with Tiger Woods, President Obama is cool, confident and riding high. On Wednesday, he gave interviews at the White House to local TV anchors and sat down with his new Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Meanwhile, the 47-year-old preppie who was once the most prominent politician on Chicago's South Side sat solemn and forlorn in the nearby federal courthouse, his career in flames and personal life in likely disarray. A student of the Civil War, he might have equated his ignominy with General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
The juxtaposition of Jackson and Obama forced the reminder that, not too long ago, Jackson was the black Chicago politician on a national fast track, long before anybody even knew Obama's name.
He won a special election to Congress in 1995, defeating rivals who included a state senator whose decision to run prompted Obama, an attorney and political neophyte, to go for her seat. As I listened to a federal judge detail the charges against Jackson, replete with buying reversible fur coats and Bruce Lee memorabilia, I couldn't help remember how Jackson's win signaled what many figured was a new era in Chicago and even national politics.
The son of a potent political and cultural figure, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, he became a source of worry to Chicago's powerful Daley family, who feared him as a potential challenger to Mayor Richard M. Daley.
And there was speculation of a similar order in the nation's capital, as noted Thursday by Mike Flannery, a Chicago TV political reporter and longtime Jackson family observer. Especially in his early Capitol Hill years, some foresaw that Jesse Jackson Jr. could be the first-ever African-American speaker of the House of Representatives.
After all, he was very bright, disciplined, articulate and able to cultivate young talent as he began building what seemed to be an emerging political machine in a South Side district long on poverty and violence, and short on hope. He was in a very safe Democratic district, took care of business and wound up on the very influential House Appropriations Committee, dispenser of seven- and eight-figure largess.
He didn't have his dad's charisma but he was more polished, if always less genuine than the international figure with whom frictions always existed, in part due to the pain often caused his mother by the father's roaming ways. It was not inconceivable that he one day could face off for power in the Democratic caucus against Rahm Emanuel, then a North Side congressman who envisioned himself as the first Jewish speaker of the House.
But as the years wore on, he blew it. He got a reputation as not especially hard working or effective in bringing home the bacon to his beleaguered district. He played his cards wrong with the Daley clan, who isolated him. Congressional colleagues felt that he didn't "deliver," as opposed to the maniacally focused Emanuel, who moved on to be Obama's chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago.
As Flannery puts it, there was an arrogance found in the prep and law school graduate that became increasingly apparent, one that perhaps morphed with bonafide self-delusion and even mental illness underscored by his brazen and crazy purchases with campaign monies.
First came his zealous attempt to lobby for Obama's U.S. Senate seat after Obama was elected President in 2008. The criminal trials of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich put a spotlight on Jackson contributors suggesting big money for the governor if he tapped Jackson as replacement. Jackson wasn't prosecuted but was tainted.
Then came word of an extramarital affair with a Washington bikini model and waitress, followed by the criminal probe of his campaign fund, a diagnosis of having bipolar disorder and his November resignation from Congress.
His tragic crash played out Wednesday in a doubleheader of family melancholy. First, he pleaded guilty, later telling me to "tell everybody in Chicago I know I let them down." Four hours later, his wife Sandi, now a former Chicago alderman, pleaded guilty to related tax charges. Each will be sentenced in four months, with the former congressman surely doing prison time.RELATED: Jesse Jackson Jr. Spending: 17 Things Ex-Congressman, Wife Bought With Campaign Cash
"We need to buy a movie studio."RELATED: Top 10 Most Obnoxious Hollywood Liberals
Amid the umpteen conferences, panels, meetings and informal conversations in the wake of the presidential election, this idea has been a near constant among conservatives who feel like the country is slipping through their fingers. Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee combined raised just more than $1 billion, and all we got are these lousy T-shirts. Since conservatives are losing the culture, goes the argument, which in turn leads to losing at politics, maybe that money could be better spent on producing some cultural ammo of our own?
It's a bad idea.
Let's first acknowledge that Hollywood is overwhelmingly, though not uniformly, liberal. Hollywood constitutes a major part of the Democratic Party's financial base and, arguably, the constituency liberal politicians fear -- and revere -- most. That's why all of the post-Newtown talk of the Obama administration "going after Hollywood violence" was nonsense from the outset.
In August, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote an interesting essay arguing that the right-wing culture vultures of the 1990s were essentially right: Hollyweird really was eroding traditional conservative values. A committed liberal, Chait is grateful for this effort: "We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite."
Chait makes a strong case. But just as there's a problem with conservatives drawing straight lines from the silver screen to social decay, there's a problem with drawing similarly unwavering lines to progressive triumph.
Hollywood produces culture, but it also takes its orders from it. For instance, according to today's pieties, the gun is an evil right-wing talisman. And yet, every year Hollywood vomits up a stream of films that cast guns as the solution to any manner of problems. Martial arts stars notwithstanding, you'll be hard-pressed to find an action movie in which the star's most trusted sidekick isn't his gun.
During the Bush years, Hollywood tried valiantly to do its part by churning out big box-office antiwar movies. It consistently failed. Liberal frustration grew so intense, then-L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein celebrated James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza "Avatar" as proof Americans really do like liberal movies with, among other things, antiwar themes. "Avatar," according to Goldstein, also proved that the global-warming message sells. And yet, after not just "Avatar" but "The Day After Tomorrow," the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (not to mention academic and media drum-beating), a 2012 Pew poll found that most Americans still don't buy that global warming is caused by humans.
The point isn't that Hollywood has no influence. It's just that its influence is agonizingly hard to predict or dismiss as unthinkingly liberal. Studies of "All in the Family" found that viewers in America, and around the globe, took different lessons from the show based on their politics and cultural norms. Despite Norman Lear's liberal best efforts, many found Archie Bunker more persuasive than his "meathead" sociologist son-in-law. HBO's epic series "The Wire" was a near-Marxist indictment of urban liberalism and the drug war, making it quite popular among many conservatives and libertarians. The popular BBC series "Downton Abbey" is shockingly conservative in many respects. The aristocrats are decent, compassionate people, and the staff is, if anything, more happily class-conscious than the blue bloods. And yet, as far as I can tell, liberals love it.
Obviously, the market is a big factor. No doubt many Hollywood liberals would like to push the ideological envelope more, but audiences get a vote. And that vote isn't cast purely on ideological grounds.
There's a difference between art and propaganda. Outside the art house crowd, liberal agitprop doesn't sell. Art must work with the expectations and beliefs of the audience. Even though pregnancies are commonplace on TV, you'll probably never see a hilarious episode of a sitcom in which a character has an abortion -- because abortion isn't funny.
The conservative desire to create a right-wing movie industry is an attempt to mimic a caricature of Hollywood. Any such effort would be a waste of money that would make the Romney campaign seem like a great investment.
In the wake of the tragic loss of country star Mindy McCready, people are taking notice of the troubling statistic surrounding reality show, "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew Pinsky."
McCready is the fifth celebrity to have appeared on the show and died shortly after. The country star was cast in season three for ongoing issues with alcohol and taking pills, and took her life on Sunday in an apparent suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On her season of "Celebrity Rehab" alone, two other people succumbed to their addictions. Mike Starr, bassist of the band Alice in Chains, died in 2011 after a drug overdose, and former "Real World" cast member Joey Kovar died in 2012 from opiate intoxication, believed to be in the form of a prescription painkiller he was taking.
From season two - police brutality victim Rodney King died in 2012 after drowning in his swimming pool. King's autopsy revealed he had a mixture of cocaine, alcohol and marijuana in his system at the time, which contributed to his death. And "Grease" actor Jeff Conaway, who was a participant in season one and two, died in 2011 of health complications he apparently contracted from years of substance abuse.
The deaths have shined a spotlight on the VH1 show, and specifically its host Dr. Drew Pinsky. Some, like musician Richard Marx, suggest Pinsky should be held accountable.RELATED: Troubled country music star Mindy McCready, 37, who had affair with ex-Yankee Roger Clemens, kills her dog and then commits suicide
"I think "Dr" Drew Pinsky should change his name to Kevorkian. Same results." Marx wrote on his Twitter page. After receiving some backlash, he amended his claim.