Monday, October 8, 2012


The Establishing Shot is a blog about movies. They’re my passion. And sometimes politics can be as well. Especially during election season. And as I was watching the Presidential debate last week, those two passions of mine collided. I realized whom this race is really between. It’s between Mr. Spock and Professor Harold Hill.
Original caricature by Jeff York of President Obama as Mr. Spock (copyright 2012)
Mr. Spock, for those of you who don’t know, is the half human, half Vulcan science officer and 2nd in command to Captain Kirk in the STAR TREK franchise. And Professor Harold Hill is THE MUSIC MAN, the traveling salesman who sells the residents of River City on the idea that they need a boys’ band.

Well, you got trouble my friends…

Right here in River City, as the song goes. See, Harold Hill isn’t really a salesman; he’s a con man. He breezes into town, tells everyone what they want to hear, even if it’s a different story to each listener, and sells them a big idea without ever intending to deliver it. His big idea, in the Academy Award-winning movie musical, is that their sleepy burg needs to spend money on a band, with expensive instruments, uniforms and lessons. This, and only this, will keep the town’s youth from falling into the corruptive presence of a pool table in the community. He sells it. And they buy it hook, line and sinker.

Hill is always jovial, smiling and laughing, even when he’s being incredibly aggressive. And yet Hill never gives one lesson. He never gathers the band for one practice. And he ducks giving out any specifics on his methods or credentials. He ends up scamming the entire town out of their money and plans to leave them all high and dry.
Original caricature by Jeff York of Mitt Romney as 'The Music Man' Harold Hill (copyright 2012)
Sounds a lot like Romney to me, telling us that he’s got all the answers, even though he offers little proof either in his history or substantial policy details. If Romney thinks he’s going to seriously cut the deficit by cutting off Big Bird and PBS, then he might as well sell us a River City boys’ band, or a bridge in Brooklyn, for that matter.

Romney tells a good story, even if it isn't always accurate. ( tells everyone what they want to hear, and changes the narrative from person to person, year-to-year, election to election. And if Hill skipping town with all the money while the town goes bust isn’t the Bain story, I don’t know analogous from synonymous. To my eyes, Romney and Hill are both driven by self-serving ambition, not any core beliefs in something bigger than themselves. 
Robert Preston plans to con the residents of  River City, Iowa in THE MUSIC MAN 

And Obama would probably think it’s a compliment for me to compare him to Spock, but it’s really not. Sure, they’re both brainiacs always ready with wonky facts and data. And yes, they’re composed and measured, cool heads always prevailing. But both are also aloof and have trouble connecting with people. And they both spend an exorbitant amount of energy trying to suppress their emotions to stay above the fray. Maybe that’s what drove Obama to give such a bloodless, docile performance at last Wednesday’s debate, but it didn’t make him look like a strong leader. I don’t know about you, but I want a Jim Kirk captaining our ship - a man who is smart as hell, but also has fire in his belly. You know, a leader who would give it back a little to those like Dr. McCoy or the Tea Party when their bigotry oozes out and they question a man’s nationality?
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

There are only a few weeks left 'til the election, but I’d like to think it’s not too late to see both Obama's and Romney's ‘character’ rise more to the occasion. Obama needs to act more like Kirk, or perhaps Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. There he displayed real heart, saves everyone, and inspires Kirk to exclaim, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human.”

And perhaps there is time for Romney to give up the long con and come up with some real substantive offerings to get the citizenry humming again. That’s what Hill did at the end of his stay in River City. He decided to hear the bells on the hill, become principled, stick around and create a real band.

We should all be so lucky to have those kinds of happy endings. Movie or not.

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