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FINEFROCK Labor Paines, Colonel Pitts & C. Gray Nagin
by Steve Finefrock - Hollywood Forum [scriptwriter] 9/5/06

Larry Hagman played against his J.R. Ewing type as reserve colonel Pitts in "The Eagle Has Landed" -- an inept man eager to exploit an opportunity to display leadership, but instead proves he's overdriving his headlights in challenging German paratroopers attempting to kidnap Churchill. This Labor Day Weekend gave a mix of films on broadcast and cable, with "Eagle" finding Pitts charging recklessly into the German ambush, disregarding his battle-trained subordinates' alternate advice for a reconnoiter before advancing into an unknown terrain. When routed and his men scattered with multiple casualties, radio sit-reps [situation reports] frustrate his hope for vainglorious recognition, after long stateside isolation as a reservist finally given a potential battlefield commission of combat troops. "Well, regroup. Do Something!" Pitts radios to his harried GIs.


Founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to "Bring the Potomac to the Palisades" on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called "A State of the Union"], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA's Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation's capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters.[go to Finefrock index]

It reminded me of so many soulless souls in today's politics, not least Lt. Governor Gray Davis of California in 1998, running for governor and then resoundinglly re-elected, only to be recalled by the people, giving us Arnold the Governator, trying to govern the least governable state in the union's history. As Lt. Governor, Gray Davis was a suitable lt. governor; as Governor, he proved he was still a good lt. governor. As with Louisiana's Kathleen "blank faced" Blanco in the Katrina Affair of last year, this year, and many years to yet come into the news. Then there's C. Ray Nagin, who was a so-so reform-mayor in a puny-yet-"major" city in a French enclave. Nagin's NOLA [New Orleans, LA] re-elected him as the Chocolate Mayor, who was first made mayor by 80% of the white vote, this time around the blacks confirming his job as he got a tiny slice of white vote. C. Gray Nagin, meet Gray Davis. As to the citizens of NOLA, meet Hizzoner, New York's former mayor Edward Koch.

Hizzoner: The People Have Spoken...

Upon NYC's decline under mayor David Dinkins, one of Koch's former supporters from a heavily Jewish neighborhood lamented on the deterioration of her beloved city since Dinkins' dinky talents had taken over; Koch recognized her as one of the defectors from his longtime coalition, a Jewish activist who'd publicly switched to Dinkins' side. "Please, Mr. Mayor, we need you back, the city is in desperate straits. Won't you please run again?" was her emotional plea. Koch remained unruffled: "No, madame, the people have spoken. And now, the people must be punished."

And so it is in NOLA, and in LA-land in general, as Mississippi charges upward with many times the construction permits issued than yet are issued in its westerly neighbor. Seems the Big Easy is still taking it easy, as they hope to take it sleazy again, and take federal handouts endlessly into the next century. Old habits are hard to break, and to brake as well....judging by Congress' eternal flame of eternal output of eternal tax revenues, and eternally taxing the productive citizens so the Big Easy can keep on rockin' along. And all that jazz.

Also this weekend was TCM's airing of Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" with Jimmy Stewart's wide-eyed Jefferson Smith finding there's not a whole lot of loyalty, or courage, or reliability in political circles. Capra was firmly whacked when Washington, D.C. audiences got a VIP's first-viewing in 1939; only Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" got a colder reception by the audience represented by a film. Wilder was excluded from Hollywood soirees for sometime after his noir-take on the film biz, and film egos. Capra almost got hung when senators and congressmen saw how they were portrayed in "Smith" [as did journalists!]: venal, mendacious, shallow, narcissistic and readily accepting of lies and phony "evidence" against Smith. Led into this lyin' den by his state's senior senator Paine, Smith's simple bill to create a boys' camp triggers political boss Taylor's vengeance machinery to depths that almost defies belief.

Paine's Glassjaw

Taylor turns loose a barrage when a larger, long-written bill's imminent approval seems threatened by Smith's simple, heartfelt proposal. Experienced political viewers then, and now, would observe: Why not simply amend Smith's bill to build the camp elsewhere, and leave intact your 'sufficiency' bill and all its corrupt arrangements? Answer: Then there would be no plot. And yet, the plot is plausible, as it plays out in real political venues large and small, past and present, in middle states and Hollywood caverns of conservatives. The reaction of power-meister Taylors, aided by otherwise honorable but cowardly Paines, is not unusual. A smalltown prosecutor seeking statewide recognition fosters an implausible indictment at the behest of a future gubernatorial candidate, and ruins the political future of one family, which sees its "friends" melt like a summer snowcone. Forty years later, an actor's ego strikes a member of that family, Taylor-like, while a roomful of Paines run for the tall grass. Snowcones melting then, and now, and not just for Jefferson Smith on the silver screen.

Jeff Smith's fate was saved by the script writer's pen, as Paine conveniently suffers a third-act surge of conscience and reveals the sordid plot to a Senate, poised to destroy the young idealist, collapsed before baskets of telegrams condemning him due to massive lies proffered by Taylor, and well-known to Paine at every stage of the defamatory assaults. Such Deus Ex Machina [act of god, or scripter] options don't occur in real life. There is no Ex Machina device to save NOLA from the wretched incompetence, and viciousness, of the Gray Davis of the south. The people have spoken, and others have remained silent -- not to mention the media's near-blackout of any serious ridicule of Nagin [at least Saturday Night Live slammed him for his Chocolate City remarks] -- and the people of NOLA shall so suffer, and the taxpayers of the other forty-nine states. Whereas Smith was going into political terra incognito, Paine well knew what was happening and boldly pretended to be an honorable man, even as he delivered phony evidence, all to protect his twenty-year career, and a possible future presidential option, as well as homestate political potentates.

Labor Day Sit-Rep

This is a summer soldiers' season, as the past rehearsals give us a cowardly George Will, who once described Ronald Reagan's wilting before hostage dramas, "Ronald Reagan had a hard time being hard" and thus came Iran Contra, plus withdrawal from Beirut [cited by Osama Bin Laden, and others, as one reason they believed thence that we would ultimately wither in any confrontation with terrorists]. Will has lost his will, along with other conservatives, neo-cons and paleo-cons. This is the time that tries men's souls and proves who are the sunshine patriots. They believe in standing by their man, so long as their man is standing unbent, unbashed, unchallenged. So long as "Mission Accomplished" was an easy 'photo op' to herald, Dubya had George and others cheering.

But now, they are fleeing to the tall grass, melting like those summer snowcones. Some think we went charging in like Colonel Pitts, as others are Paine-like in their lack of courage when the going gets rough. Just as many made little effort to challenge the puny priss that served as a poor excuse as NOLA's mayor, and LA's governor, in issuing a barrage against Dubya in the wake of Katrina nightmares. The flurry of criticism was unmatched by conservatives' support of a Dubya no longer undaunted and undented.

So many snowcones....

This ain't no stinkin' movie. But it is very much like a movie, as phony evidence and scurrilous characterizations are proffered by the left, and only faintly challenged by the right, and many are joining Will -- who himself finds it hard to be hard, when the Valley Forge of this current challenge encompasses him and other cons. It's deja vu all over again, as lies and tough times prove who the friends are, or were, and thus become few and far between. First, evangelicals abandoned Dubya in 2000, after the DWI 'revelation' emerged the weekend before the polls opened. They felt "betrayed" and pouted all the way to almost a Gore presidency. Now, cons are sour on spending -- with good reason -- and may give us Speaker Pelosi. And are sour on sour notes out of Iraq. And seem to not be rejuvenated at the Plame Game having been finally revealed for its mendacious depths.

Broken Political Machina

Alfred Hitchcock claimed movies were just like real life, only with the boring bits cut away. This sit-rep is very familiar indeed. Friends abandoned my democrat-party family forty years ago, even though the appellate court chastized the DA and the judge as well [who didn't want to "offend the 'courthouse gang'" as he made quote marks with his finger, from the bench]. And the new-century GOPster friends went wobbly in Hollywood, when less awesome lies were proffered, but also didn't want to offend that 'courthouse gang' in which they wished to circulate after the 'trial' had rendered its pre-ordained verdict. And friends are abandoning Dubya.... a much more serious level of tallgrass embrace.

It ain't a movie, but it do feel like one. Whereas it's true that history doesn't truly, and fully, repeat itself, sometimes it do RHYME!. And this nationwide sit-rep is rhyming with movies and personal ventures with a resonance that is disconcerting. Too many Paines, too many C. Gray Nagins, too many NOLA nincompoops. Not enough courage, in Hollywood, in the Senate of Capra's imagination, nor in the GOPster inner circles.

It's going to be a rough ride, if we get Speaker Pelosi. It will be a world which rhymes with C. Gray Nagin and Jefferson Smith. Cowardly lyin' going on, both by dems and GOPsters. And a lot of so-called friends of Dubya proving they don't have the Will to live once the goin' gets rough.

These Paines come to mind this Labor Day holiday. These Paines do try men's souls, in the movies and in real life. In the past and the present. In my past democrat-party life and my current GOPster life. In middle states then and there, and Hollywood environs now and here. And a whole lot of Pitts are at the helm, in command, calling the shots, demonstrating that movies do rhyme with the GOP, as the Peter Principle extends from Pitts to Paine and environs too real, and too important, to allow to continue.

Potter's Field of Schemes

If only it were a movie: I could re-write the ending, Capra-like, and give us Capra-corn and Capra-esque satisfaction. Unlike that cowardly judge in my teens, this ending would be replete with courageous conservatives' conclaves of energetic support for Dubya. Unlike those cowardly conservatives in Tinseltown, Dubya would be met with the same Capra-corn support as Jimmy Stewart received as George Bailey's Deus Ex Machina redemption in "It's A Wonderful Life" -- maybe the most preposterous film suspension of disbelief ever written. Of course in that story, mean Mr. Potter was not a politician with a slew of allies benefiting from his scheming, but a universally-hated man who'd been thwarted with the gleeful agreement of all the citizens of Bedford Falls. Had any of them desired to be invited to a Potter dinner or social event, Bailey might have found the last-minute assist a bit less enthusiastic. Bedford Falls snowcones falling before Potter's onslaught.

George Bush won't get George Bailey's courageous ending. We've lost George Will, who is no slouch as a conservative. Unlike the RINO regiments of semi-republicans, Will's loss of will is emblematic of the GOP's lost fortunes. We've surrendered our highground superiority on fiscal responsibility -- Har, Har, Har -- and now on national security, we've gone wobbly, as George has abandoned George, just as those Bedford Falls folks would have abandoned their George if they desired to be invited to a Potter's field soiree. Losing Will is a sign that republicans had their chance to show some stones. When it counted. When it wasn't easy. When it wasn't summer, but smack dab inside Valley Forge.

Shrill, Distant Voice....

But, this do rhyme with other stories, both real and reel. That smalltown judge wanted to be liked by the courthouse gang, and Will wants to be liked by someone other than conservatives. Then there's W.F. Buckley, himself going a bit wobbly. Washington had this problem -- Benedict Arnold's defection and betrayal came as the Redcoats had been winning for nearly two years straight -- as did Lincoln [they were called Copperheads]. It do seem that we've gone wobbly-- not just America, but its only salvation, conservatives finally controlling both houses and the White House simultaneously, for the first time since the first two years of Ike's presidency.

It's a rhyme that's a crime. No wonder C. Gray Nagin gets away with political crimes. Conservatives' cojones are very, very small indeed. Reagan bailed out of Beirut, and Will has bailed out on Iraq. I hear the voice, a distant shrillness, of the House of Representatives being called to order by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And the spilling of blood and wasting of treasure in Iraq. And the people will be punished.

We've gone wobbly, just as that judge did in '66, and my friends did in '04, and Dubya' s friends are doing in '06. It is a rhyme that is a crime. If only it were a movie..........

copyright 2006 Steve Finefrock





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