Sunday, November 30, 2008

Could Maureen Dowd Live On Thirteen Bucks A Week?

A Penny for My Thoughts?
Published: November 29, 2008

Maureen Dowd pulls a Friedman this week and looks down the long barrel of outsourcing as it moves into the dying and not even convincingly twitching world of newpapers.

The newspaper business is not only crumpling up, James Macpherson informed me here, it is probably holding “a one-way ticket to Bangalore.”

Macpherson — bow-tied and white-haired but boyish-looking at 53 — should know. He pioneered “glocal” news — outsourcing Pasadena coverage to India at Pasadena Now, his daily online “newspaperless,” as he likes to call it. Indians are writing about everything from the Pasadena Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to kitchen remodeling to city debates about eliminating plastic shopping bags.
The Pasadena Now website can be found here, and it’s a bright colorful page with all the bells and whistles expected from a modern Flash driven portal, but it hardly qualifies as a hard news source. The lead story is "Queen Skittles to Reign Over 2009 Doo Dah Parade". It also covers a mall opening and a Christmas tree lighting. But it looks better and cleaner than the home page of some Gray Ladies I could name.

And if you are looking for a Dickensian villain, James Macpherson fits the bill. He pays his Bangalore stringers starvation wages.
He fired his seven Pasadena staffers — including five reporters — who were making $600 to $800 a week, and now he and his wife direct six employees all over India on how to write news and features, using telephones, e-mail, press releases, Web harvesting and live video streaming from a cellphone at City Hall.

“I pay per piece, just the way it was in the garment business,” he says. “A thousand words pays $7.50.”
That would make the gross pay for Maureen’s twice-weekly 850-word essays about thirteen dollars a week. And while you can find DowdHaters convinced that even that would be overpaying her, it’s definitely not going to pay the mortgage on a Georgetown townhome or even dent her shoe debt to Aaron Sorkin.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Day Treat

Maureen Dowd has taken a long Thanksgiving holiday, so instead we recommend Thomas Friedman's column today on the fall of Citibank. In it he quotes a column by Michael Lewis.

Also check out Michael Lewis’s superb essay, “The End of Wall Street’s Boom,” on Lewis, who first chronicled Wall Street’s excesses in “Liar’s Poker,” profiles some of the decent people on Wall Street who tried to expose the credit binge — including Meredith Whitney, a little known banking analyst who declared, over a year ago, that “Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust,” wrote Lewis.
Of course, regular readers of Grace Nearing's Scriptoids knew of this excellent article nearly a week ago.

Let's hope Maureen gets that turkey spatchcocked correctly so that we can have a fresh column on Sunday instead of triptophen-laced leftovers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Maureen at Claremont McKenna

Maureen Dowd's college tour continues with a recent talk at Claremont McKenna College in California. Joared of the Along The Way blog has a very detailed two-part blog post.

In Part 1, she talks about some background info about Dowd's early pre-journalism days.

After graduation, she became gainfully, happily and contentedly employed as a waitress, possibly as a respite from intense studies, I speculate. Eventually, her parents penetrated the comfort level of what might be described as an insulated cocoon that she was in no hurry to leave. They informed her, she said, that having paid for her higher education they expected her to seek work in a more professional arena offering a potential in keeping with her educational level.
The second part had plenty of juicy excerpts from the talk itself including Barack Obama's opinion of her:
Ms Dowd talked of accompanying Barack Obama on a return flight from Europe during his travel to various nations before he was the official Democratic Party presidential candidate. She was pleased to have been given an interview with him, then surprised when their talk concluded with him dismissing Aides to speak to her alone. His demeanor took on a very serious tone, she reported, as he said to her, "You're really irritating." Furthermore, she added, he repeated the same statement a second time.
It sounds like it was a delightful time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Milking the Coyote

Marriage on the Rocks
Published: November 22, 2008

A full two weeks after the election, Maureen Dowd has stopped obsessing over Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton long enough to focus on another election day travesty. The passage of Proposition 8 in California and the imminent release of Sean Penn bio-pic Milk is so strikingly ironic that it takes Dowd an entire paragraph to explicate the Dowdversion™.

The movie, chronicling the rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces in the ’70s to prevent discrimination against gays, is opening amid a rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces to prevent discrimination against gays.
The news peg for turning a freebie film screening into a column long Movies With Maureen™ is the building backlash boycott against supporters of Prop 8.
Now that donor information can be found on the Internet, gay activists have called for boycotts of anyone who contributed to the law’s passing, from businesses small (El Coyote restaurant in L.A., where Sharon Tate had her last meal and Fabio and George Clooney nearly came to blows) to large (Utah ski resorts and Park City, Utah, theaters where Sundance movies are shown).
Here at DowdCentral we are unfamiliar with the haunts of the Hollywood heavy-hitters, but El Coyote seems to be a popular if slightly notorious hot-spot. The Manson family connection is detailed on the Haunted Hollywood website. The Clooney-Fabio slapfest was detailed in Defamer about a year ago, but they put the fight at rival restaurant Madeo.

But what would cause Maureen to conflate these two celebrity incidents that are wholly incidental to the Prop 8 debate. Perhaps the Dowdster is a fan of Huffington Post and Firedoglake contributor Lisa Derrick who had this to say on November 11th:
Marriage rights advocates are calling for a boycott of Los Angeles' legendary El Coyote Cafe where Sharon Tate ate her last meal, and Penelope Cruz and U2 have had much more successful dining experiences, though George Clooney and Fabio came to blows in the naugahyde upolstered dining room after the Italian romance model called Clooney "a diva."
From the gossip rag of record, the New York Post had this to say about the Clooney-Fabio incident:
On Friday, Clooney and gal pal Sarah Larsen were having dinner at L.A. eatery Madeo next to Fabio and a group of women. {snip} Clooney, assuming the woman was taking snaps of him, asked her to stop - prompting Fabio to explain that the shots were of his group, not Clooney, and to tell the superstar, "Stop being a diva." Clooney started arguing back, and he and Fabio then got into a shoving match.
Both Maureen Dowd and Lisa Derrick got their details wrong. I bet some fact-checker gets upbraided. Hopefully Lisa Derrick is proud to be Maureen Dowd's uncredited and unpaid research assistant. Otherwise, I see another fight erupting over El Coyote.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

By The Numbers

Two for the Price of Two
Published: November 18, 2008

This column is just a continuation of Maureen Dowd’s piece from Sunday discussing the merits of Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State. As such, let’s run the numbers.

One Dowdversion®:

Just as Bill elevated his sprawling, chaotic personality into a management style, so Barry is elevating his spare, calm personality into a management style.
Two Alliteration Alerts™:
But then Obama surpised Bill and Hillary by offering her a chance at the secretary of state job. Maybe because the Clintonian perspective on anyone who opposes them tends to be paranoid, the couple wasn’t expecting such a magnanimous move and they were pleased to be drawn back in from the margins.

And in turn, Bill is doing all he can — he’s disclosing sketchy donors and business interests and figuring out how he could curb his global gallavanting to have fewer conflicts of interest — to help her get the job.
53 percent of the popular vote:
But 42 will probably always be somewhat steamed at 44. Not only because of the Obama camp calling him out on his racially coded poison darts in South Carolina. Bill is surely jealous that his Democratic successor got a majority of the popular vote with 53 percent;
500,000 dollars:
It says it all that, at the moment Washington became obsessed with news that Hillary was a contender for State, Bill was getting a half-million for an hour’s worth of chat sponsored by the National Bank of Kuwait, delivered from behind a podium with a camel and Arabic lettering on it.
One very left-handed compliment:
But why support Hillary for Madam Secretary if you don’t her for Madam President?

“I don’t think they’re the same job at all, do you?” [David Geffen] replied.

I told him I agreed. Completely.
Which I guess counts as the official Maureen Dowd endorsement.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

With Frenemies Like This...

Frenemy: Someone who is both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
-Michael Corleone
Team of Frenemies
Published: November 16, 2008

After two good months of having Sarah Palin to kick around, Maureen Dowd is forced to return to her raison d’être, bashing Clintons. Senator Hillary Clinton is being floated as trial balloon for Secretary of State and Maureen is there to insure as much lead gets loaded as needed. Her basic argument comes down to “Why, for God’s sake why?”
There are Obama aides and supporters who are upset that The One who won on change has ushered in déjà vu all over again. The man who vowed to deliver us from 28 years of Bushes and Clintons has been stocking up on Clintonites.
For one thing, she points out that the prolonged primary fight created a lot of ill-will between the camps. And Bill Clinton is one to carry a grudge. In a gold-trimmed briefcase.
As Newsweek reported, last January Bill got so worked up in a phone call with Donna Brazile that he ranted, “If Barack Obama is nominated, it will be the worst denigration of public service.” The magazine also revealed that “the former president had amassed an 81-page list of all the unfair and nasty things the Obama campaign had said, or was alleged to have said, about Hillary Clinton.”
And the Obama camp is being very thorough in vetting their potential nominees to avoid any Lani Guinier episodes right from the get-go. And it’s a list that the Clintons with their baggage probably wouldn’t pass if it weren’t for name recognition.
If Hillary wants to be Madame Secretary, Bill will have to put away the 81-page list and pick up the 63 questions in the Obama vetting questionnaire, an unprecedented deep probe of potential cabinet members and their spouses.
Heh, heh, she said "probe." But I digress.
Even if Bill scurries past the questions on sexual harassment claims, conflicts of interest, civil suits, real estate holdings, federal investigations, diaries, gifts worth more than $50 and Internet aliases, the Clintons will still have to grapple with No. 8: “Briefly describe the most controversial matters you have been involved with during the course of your career.” (It would take books, and it has.)
Their disclosure form would be the first to include a bibliography. But Maureen takes delight in one question in particular.
Not to mention No. 62: “Do you know anyone or any organization ... that might take steps, overtly or covertly, fairly or unfairly, to criticize your nomination, including any news organization?”
Does the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy” ring any bells? Not to mention that Dowd herself would require her own entry on this list.

Besides, there are other people on the Foggy Bottom short-list who might be miffed at being stepped-over by the carpetbagger from New York.
You can hear the gnashing of teeth from John Kerry — who thought the job was promised to him in return for his endorsement after New Hampshire — and Bill “Judas” Richardson, who met Friday with Obama in Chicago to discuss the job.
The “Judas” nickname is not Maureen’s doing. It was given to Richardson by Clinton spear-carrier James Carville as told by the news side of the Times when Richardson endorsed Obama instead of Clinton.
The reaction of some of Mr. Clinton’s allies suggests that might have been a wise decision. “An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.
To telegraph the camps a little more clearly, Maureen goes on to quote Carville’s Corleone-esque advice in the next paragraph.
And Joe Biden would probably like a little less blond ambition at State so he could be the shadow secretary. But as James Carville has said, a campaign is the time to stab your enemies and a transition is the time to stab your friends.
And blond ambition is as close to a Movies With Maureen® as we are going to get, although I suspect she was playing off of the John Dean tell-all rather than the Jessica Simpson stinker.

Since this is essentially a by-the books anti-Clinton screed that Maureen keeps on hand for rainy days, let’s just hit the trademarked telltales:

The Alliteration Alert® (with bonus points for a glass ceiling crack):
And why should the woman who made 18 million cracks go back to being junior to Chuck Schumer, if she could be toasted from Dublin to Dubai?
A Dowdversion®:
On the down side, Hillary would be taking over a big and demoralized government bureaucracy, after proving with her campaign that she does not know how to run a big and demoralized group of people.
The Crossword Clue of the Week®:
How, one may ask, can he put Hillary — who voted to authorize the Iraq war without even reading the intelligence assessment — in charge of patching up a foreign policy and a world riven by that war?
And finally while not a trademarked feature, no mention of Clintons can go without a few potshots at the Big Dog.
If you have a president who’s willing to open up his universe to other smart, strong people, if you have a big dog who shares his food dish, the Bill Clinton era is truly over.

Appointing a Clinton in the cabinet would be so un-Clintonian.
And if that were the case, how would Maureen know how to react?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Silk Stalkings

Boxers, Briefs or Silks?
Published: November 11, 2008

Sarah Palin is the best thing to happen to Maureen Dowd’s sense of sarcasm since Monica Lewinsky snapped her thong in front of Big Dog Bill Clinton who deigned to answer the original version of the titular question. The sartorial scandal caused by Palin purloining GOP party dresses is garment gold. Just listen to the Alliteration Alert™ alarm as she executes a rare intertwined fusillade of funny phonics.

The snippy McCain snipers once loved Palin’s sassy ability to burn Barack Obama and Joe Biden with snide little remarks.
Palin is sending Dowd to new heights of invective. Maureen has made the My Fair Lady analogy three times in as many months, but she has now given it an extra sting by spinning it into a Rude Name®.
Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, told The Associated Press over the weekend that his daughter was “frantically” trying to sort out the clothes she got as Eliza Knowlittle so she could send them back.

“You know,” Heath said, “the kids lose underwear, and everything has to be accounted for.”
And the mention of unmentionables just drives Dowd delirious.
The campaign was charged for silk boxers, spray tanners and 13 suitcases to carry the designer duds, Shear reported, adding that one source said, “She was still receiving shipments of custom-designed underpinnings up to her ‘Saturday Night Live’ performance” in October. Silk boxers and custom-designed underpinnings? Sounds like Sarah and Todd were treating the vice presidential run as a second honeymoon.
And keeping with the undergarments theme, she concludes with a giggle about girdles.
Palin should follow her own reformer precedent and put the borrowed underpinnings on eBay. The windfall would undergird her new presidential bid.
Talk about establishing a firm foundation. Someone needs to tell Palin not to get her panties in knot if she expects to have a run at the presidency rather than just get one in her stockings.

Today’s photo illustrations are used with permission
(a novel concept for us here at Dowd Central)
from fashion blog Sparked
which has plenty of its own Palin snark.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Some Of Her Best Friends

People say I'm the life of the party
Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
Just look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears
I need you, need you.
-Smokey Robinson
The Tracks of Our Tears
Published: November 8, 2008

All over the country, Barack Obama’s election is starting a new dialog on race amongst Americans. Maureen Dowd notices the zeitgeist:
I grew up in the nation’s capital, but I’ve never seen blacks and whites here intermingling as they have this week.

Everywhere I go, some white person is asking some black person how they feel.
And what sort of people are getting asked, and more importantly, what sort of places does Maureen go to?
I saw one white customer quiz his black waitress at length at a chic soul food restaurant downtown, over deviled eggs and fried chicken livers, about whether she cried when Barack Obama won.
I saw three white women asking a black bartender at the Bombay Club, across Lafayette Park from the White House, if he was happy and what he thought about Jesse Jackson’s flowing tears at Grant Park, given his envious threat to cut off a sensitive part of Obama’s anatomy.
I saw a white-haired white woman down the block from me running out to strike up a conversation with a black U.P.S. delivery guy, asking him how he felt and what this meant to him.
I heard my cute black mailman talking in an excited voice outside my house Friday, so I decided I should go ask him how he was feeling about everything, the absolute amazement of the first black president.
So there you have it, as Maureen Dowd goes out to chi-chi soul food places, toney nightclubs, or just spends her days looking out the window of her Georgetown townhome, she sees black folk of all economic positions: waitresses, bartenders, delivery guys and even mailmen. But not if they see her first.
[The mailman] shot me a look of bemused disdain as he walked away. I suddenly realized, with embarrassment, that he was on his Bluetooth, deep in a personal conversation that had nothing to do with Barack Obama.
So who does Maureen have to talk racial issues with? She mentions Howard University, just a short bus ride away from her, but it would be too much trouble to interview an actual African-American professor or lawyer or businessman. Instead she just ruminates if maybe this is too much trouble.
But is it time now for whites to stop polling blacks on their feelings?

I’ll have to call my friend Gwen Ifill tomorrow and ask her how she feels about that.
Gwen, being the African-American correspondent for PBS’s News Hour With Jim Lehrer and moderator of the vice-presidential debates and working on a book about Barack Obama’s campaign surely has nothing better to do than enlighten the poor benighted Maureen. Perhaps they can meet for brunch over waffles and chicken.

I am imagining dozens (well, at least a couple) of easily umbraged bloggers taking Maureen to task for this lazy approach to racial relations. Buy they would be missing the subtext of the column. All the service industry people Dowd eavesdrops on answer their over-reaching white patrons thoughtfully, and dare I say, articulately. Dowd is mocking the white people that need to get a black person's, any black person's validation. It is the rest of us that need to think through our reaction to, well, what exactly is he?
Was Barack Obama the first or the second black president, or alternatively, the first half-white, half-black president?
We have years to ponder and discuss the social and psychological implications of Barack Obama's election. Just don’t go chasing the guys on the recycling truck down the street to get their opinion.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dowd Sees A New Dawn

Bring on the Puppy and the Rookie
Published: November 5, 2008

Maureen Dowd took an extra day to file her column so that she could soak in the atmosphere of the cleaner brighter air of a new era.

I walked over to the White House Tuesday night and leaned against the fence. How can such a lovely house make so many of its inhabitants nuts?

There was no U-Haul in the driveway. I don’t know if W. was inside talking to the portraits on the wall. Or if the portraits can vanish from their frames, as at Hogwarts Academy, to escape if W. is pestering them about his legacy.
She is referring to President Nixon’s habit of talking to the portraits in the White House. This habit of his has been documented in biographies, filmed in Oliver Stone’s Nixon and satirized on Saturday Night Live. Maureen’s twist is that, like the ghosts in the Harry Potter novels, they might not want to talk back.

As she thinks back on the incredible campaign that has put an African-American in the White House, she recalls the casual racism that still exists in this country.
But I had been astonished by the overt willingness of some people who didn’t mind being quoted by name in The New York Times saying vile stuff, that a President Obama would turn the Rose Garden into a watermelon patch, that he’d have barbeques on the front lawn, that he’d make the White House the Black House.
Maureen has the class to not quote that person by name, but she doesn’t really have to. Internet forums and blog comment sections are rife with that rather tired racist watermelon joke. For example, it shows up as a post by a CAP-LOCKS challenged self-styled comedian in a FoxNews forum. This one thread with over 7000 comments serves as clearinghouse for all the nutty bitter post election invective that might make RedState members blanch.

In Washington, DC, the front of the White House was the center of celebration for revelers wanting to blow off some steam.
Americans all over the place were jumping for joy, including the block I had been on in front of the White House, where they were singing: “Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”
Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post was also among that crowd and had this dispatch:
It was an explosion of joy. Strangers hugged. People danced in clusters. The air became saturated with the sound of honking car horns from all points of the compass. Police stayed back, barely perceptible on the periphery. The White House itself was darkened, with hardly a sign of life. But people called toward the president's house anyway, and chanted. One group started a song:
Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey hey hey
In front of the White House, the celebrants came up with a new chant to direct toward the mansion: "Pack! Your! S--t!"
But Maureen found more than exuberance, she found Hope.
There have been many awful mistakes made in this country. But now we have another chance.

As we start fresh with a constitutional law professor and senator from the Land of Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial might be getting its gleam back.

I may have to celebrate by going over there and climbing up into Abe’s lap.

It’s a $50 fine. But it’d be worth it.
She better be careful. There may be line headed up by T. M. Shine.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Hangover

No Maureen Dowd column today. At the bottom of Friedman's column is this announcement:

Maureen Dowd will appear on Thursday.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Skinny On Obama

Who’s the Question Mark?
Published: November 1, 2008

Today’s column is Maureen Dowd’s last before the votes get cast and she rightly exposes how the straight-talking McCain has become a chameleon hiding behind talking points so much so that voters cannot truly recognize the man he used to be.

Why did a politician who once knew how to play the game so well, who was once so beloved by people of very different political stripes, allow his campaign to get whiny, angry, vengeful and bitter?
In it, Dowd puts the blame on campaign strategist Steve Schmidt whom she gives a trademarked Rude Name:
But ever since Sergeant Schmidt put Captain McCain into a sterile brig on the trail, the candidate has become a question mark.
The Captain McCain reference makes me think of the instant classic Drew Friedman cartoon portraying McCain as the hotheaded Captain Kirk and Obama as the cool alien Mr. Spock.

And while most of the column asks rhetorical questions on how McCain lost control of his campaign, there is only short paragraph about Obama, but it bears further analysis. Within one sentence is an entire campaign season of innuendos and allusions.
And it is Obama, who sashayed onto the trail two years ago as an aloof and exotic mystery man with a slim record and a strange name, now coming across as the steadier brand.
Let’s break down the pieces.

Sashay: Dowd got her wrist-slapped for excessive effeminization of Barack and the verb sashay evokes a mincing that backslides into this bit. The last use of this word was a year ago and referred to Hillary that time.
Maybe it’s fitting that a woman who first sashayed into the national consciousness with an equation — “two for the price of one” — may have her fate determined by the arithmetic of dynasty.
Aloof: As opposed to the previously gregarious McCain, Obama has often been portrayed as being more reserved. Dowd has described Barack as aloof at least twice. In June, Karl Rove was trying to promote Obama as a sneering elitist.
Obama can be aloof and dismissive at times, and he’s certainly self-regarding, carrying the aura of the Ivy faculty club.
But Rove was only empahasizing an opinion that was already out there. Back in April, he was not only aloof, he was abstemious.
But the candidate is boringly abstemious — and reporters traveling with him find him aloof.
Exotic: This adjective is usually seen as an off-putting quality. It has been used at least three times. Back in August, Dowd said voters were still having a hard time connecting to Barack.
And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senate’s exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.
But also in April.
At the very moment when his fate hangs in the balance, when he is trying to persuade white working-class voters that he is not an exotic stranger with radical ties, the vainglorious Rev. Wright kicks him in the stomach.
Even when he is following the conventional wisdom, he is attacked for his foreigness. Dowd presents the paradox back in July.
He must simultaneously defend himself for being too exotic and, because of recent moves, too conventional.
But exotic can also mean erudite and effete. During his grand world tour, Dowd connected it with more European mores.
Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats. He doesn’t want a picture of him nibbling on a baguette to overtake the effete image of the Europhile John Kerry windsurfing.
Slim: Normally here at Dowd Central, we would take umbrage at anyone taking slim out of context here, but Maureen has a history of using slimness as a defining feature of Barack. A fictional Hillary had this to say:
My gals know when I say ‘We may have started on two separate paths but we’re on one journey now’ that Skinny’s journey is to the nearest exit.”
But Dowd sees it as a positive trait.
It does not occur to Parisians that Americans will choose the old, white-haired one if they can have the cool, skinny one with the Ray-Bans, John le Carré novels, chic wife and secret cigarettes.
She quotes Obama as defending his weight class:
“I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I’m tough,” he told a crowd of more than 15,000 in Hartford the other night, with the Kennedys looking on. “I’m from Chicago.”
But being that thin seems too off-putting to some voters. Dowd stretches the metaphor to food.
As Carol Marin wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, The Lanky One is like an Alice Waters organic chicken — “sleek, elegant, beautifully prepared. Too cool” — when what many working-class women are craving is mac and cheese.
Strange name: In March Dowd connected his slimness to his exoticness through his strange name.
And whether we can take a flier on this skinny guy with the strange name and braided ancestry to help us get it back.
So we will let others find the "erratica/dramatica" wordplay or the "tech tyro" alliteration. After Tuesday we need to get used to the themes of an aloof, exotic, skinny guy with a strange name running the country. In other words, prepare for Mr. Spock.