It’s time to take on the most important issue facing American conservatives today: Can a self-respecting right-winger be a fan of Alec Baldwin?
The answer is “yes.” Allow me to demonstrate why:
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Now, that clip from 30 Rock is, without a doubt, one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever seen. Bizarre, obnoxious and unbelievably politically incorrect, it’s a welcome reminder that television need not be a soul-sucking void of mindless time-killing.
Baldwin was awesomely amoral in Miami Blues. He was awesomely arrogant in Malice. He was just plain awesomely awesome in Glengarry Glen Ross. And as NBC Vice-President of Television and Microwave Cookery Jack Donaghy, he continues his track record of awesomeness and fully deserves his multiple awards and nominations. But does he deserve a conservative’s appreciation?
Like so many successful liberals, Baldwin is a lifestyle conservative. He talks Left but he works Right. Look at his resume. He works a lot and he’s good at what he does. Of course, he’d never offer the same prescription of hard work and competency as a remedy for what ails the rest of the liberal base – demanding that those of us who actually produce something subsidize those who don’t is so much more morally gratifying than demanding personal responsibility from one’s own allies. But we can’t expect much more from Baldwin – he suffers from the terrible handicap of a prestigious American university education, so of course he’s politically confused.
The problem with Baldwin is not his liberalism. I live in Los Angeles and here he’s practically a John Bircher. The problem is that he can be so tiresome about it when he goes public with it. Baldwin called Dick Cheney an “oil whore” and thinks he should be indicted for war crimes, which as we know is silly – the only thing wrong with the former Veep was his moderation. He’s spouted off with stupid comments about Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Matt Drudge – guys with big microphones – and ended up the worse for it. Pampered Hollywood stars are not used to push back and it makes them huffier than a Blue Dog getting asked about death panels.
Baldwin even went on late night TV in the 1990s and made unfunny jokes about stoning Henry Hyde to death. Henry Hyde? How could anyone be that mad at Henry Hyde? He was like a congressional koala.
Baldwin is an angry liberal and is sometimes an angry man. His anger manifested in a horrendous telephone message to his tween daughter which someone in his bitter ex-wife Kim Bassinger’s camp decided to release (classy move, Kim – nothing like using your kid as a piece in a game of emotional Stratego). Apparently, the kid was supposed to be there for a pre-arranged phone call and wasn’t and Baldwin flipped out. The tape was pretty ugly, Baldwin was clearly pretty upset, and he got a lot of flak. Still, in his defense, I’m not sure that when one gets mad at one’s kid one necessarily needs to do so in the soothing tones of Mr. Rogers. The biggest child-rearing problem in Hollywood sure as hell isn’t parents being too assertive with their kids.
But the thing about Baldwin is that his political musings and controversial family life generally don’t cross over into his art. If you want to see what he thinks about the global warming scam, you can find him giving you the full benefit of the atmospheric science research he conducted while earning a masters of fine arts in his Huffington Post column. But you are not likely to see it in his acting – with an amusing exception being his self-deprecating turn when Sarah Palin visited Saturday Night Live.
So how can conservatives respect this guy as an artist and patronize his work? That’s easy – because we actually have lives, we conservatives are not freaks who let personal politics infest every part of them. The notion of running through a political litmus test every time we flip on HBO is ridiculous. And anyway, excluding all liberal media and entertainers would pretty much leave us to watch Fox News and maybe those old Indian head test patterns.
Now, there are some folks whose politics and work are so intertwined, intentionally or otherwise, as to make patronizing them a political statement. Hanoi Jane Fonda is one. You stick a revolver in my ear and whisper “Watch On Golden Pond or I pull this trigger” and my response will be, “What’s the caliber?”
I had the honor of interviewing Admiral James Stockdale in 1987, long before this Medal of Honor winner was Perot’s running mate. I know from Admiral Stockdale – both from talking to him and from seeing his broken body – what those North Vietnamese bastards did to our men. During the Gulf War I carried an extra 5.56 mm round in my BDUs pocket to ensure that after I emptied my seven M16A1 magazines I would still be able to avoid capture. Fonda sucked up to the punks beating and starving our POWs and shooting at our pilots. Those guys may forgive that wizened, VC-hugging crone, but not me.
I also won’t listen to the Dixie Chicks – not because of their dim bulb politics but because they suck.
Arbitrarily walling yourself off from popular culture icons who don’t vote your way is generally counterproductive. But conversely, when artists get “political” the results are usually terrible … or terribly funny!
If you want a challenge, try getting through Dead Man Walking without cracking a big fat smile. Tim Robbins directed Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon – a triple threat of Hugo Chavez-smooching fellow travelers! – in this film about a condemned murderer who the film assures us is the real victim. It’s comedy gold!
My favorite part is the hilarious lethal injection scene that Robbins chooses to shoot like a crucifixion – get it? Whoa, heavy imagery, dude. All that’s missing is a subtitle that reads: “Attention: This represents Jesus somehow.”
This isn’t unusual. Politics + Art (generally) = Crap.
The Clash’s worst album is Sandinista – okay, Somebody Got Murdered is freakin’ awesome, but it’s a damn three-record album and it’s got one good song. Even De Niro, who I would watch in a Cialis commercial, can’t save Wag The Dog. The less said about W, the better – not that anyone ever had much to say about it, especially phrases like “Let’s go see W.”
The only dull Simpsons episodes are the ones with heavy-handed politics (illegal immigrant episode, I’m looking at you). Aaron Sorkin is intermittently talented, but The West Wing was unwatchable. Even our beloved 24 comes to a screeching stop whenever they stop shooting jihadists and start sharing their feelings about shooting jihadists.
Alec Baldwin has the sense to keep his awful, awful politics to himself, thereby allowing us the ability to enjoy his undeniable talent. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mock his baffling left wing views. We have a moral obligation to do so. We’ve already gotten two or three of the four Baldwin brothers on our side (I’ve lost count). Alec, you’re welcome whenever you’re ready to step to the Right.