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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"For Democrats, there is no fallback: It’s Hillary Clinton or probably a long bout of depression ahead of 2016. With expectations hitting a fever pitch three-and-a-half years out that Clinton is running for president again, every move she makes – a video endorsing gay marriage, a coy line about supporting a woman president – moves the excitement a notch higher. So too do endorsements from former critics – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, among others. Democrats openly describe their surprise at seeing such consensus around a candidate so early. The hope of retaining the White House in an open-seat election is very real — and the letdown that will set in among Democratic activists and operatives will be very deep if Clinton takes a pass on a campaign, as she may well do. She has said she has yet to make up her mind, but few in the party believe that. The Clintons’ ambition and the chance to make history as the first female president, they figure, will overpower any reticence about another grueling campaign or spending her golden years carrying the burdens of the world’s weightiest job. But if they’re wrong, there is no obvious replacement. And the party would be looking at a mad scramble to fill the Clinton void. 'We would be at sea in a lifeboat with no food, no water, and no land in sight,' said one veteran Democratic operative who has worked on presidential campaigns, and who, like most people interviewed for this story, asked for anonymity to speak candidly about the former first lady. 'There is no Plan B.'" (Politico)



"Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr resigned Tuesday, becoming the most high-profile minister to step down since protests against the rule of President Mohammed Morsi began over the weekend. Amr's resignation came after the Egyptian military issued an ultimatum Monday, demanding that Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood start a dialogue with opposition members within 48 hours, or risk the military stepping in to impose a 'political roadmap' on all parties. This move comes amid the latest in a series of political crises in Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The political turmoil facing Egypt, its political class and its powerful military has become almost a given, with all sides turning to public displays of unrest and emotion as often as they do to the democratic process. And as Egypt's political system evolves, it is becoming clear that -- with the exception of a few critical issues, including Gaza, the Suez Canal and the Egyptian military's ability to secure both -- Western and regional governments are viewing Egypt's affinity for unrest with diminishing concern. Egypt was once the political and religious lynchpin of the Sunni Arab world. Egyptian institutions such as the religious Al-Azhar University and the Islamism championed by the Muslim Brotherhood continue to have significant regional influence, but Egypt is far from being a contender for the role of Arab hegemon. Larger regional issues, such as the Syrian War and the Sunni push back that has placed a formerly ascendant Iran on the defensive, take priority over Egypt's political morass in the eyes of the United States and its Western allies, who have grown weary of intervening in the Middle East. Egypt's geopolitical relevance will endure for quite some time, even if the country ceases to be a confident leader of the Sunni Arab world. The Suez Canal is and will remain a vital path for global shipping, and Egypt's proximity to the Gaza Strip, as well as its long-standing cease-fire with Israel, will influence Washington to maintain links with the Egyptian military, if not the government in Cairo. The Egyptian military is the primary guarantor of the security of both the Suez Canal and Egypt's border with Gaza. As long as the military maintains its position as the strongest pillar within the Egyptian state, the United States is unlikely to interfere with Egyptian affairs. The Egyptian army shows no signs of faltering. Its stability is both a blessing and a curse; free from the meddling of stronger foreign actors, the military is becoming increasingly responsible -- and accountable -- for Egypt's continued domestic unrest. In the absence of Western support or intervention, regional actors such as Qatar, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and Libya, are helping to relieve some of the economic pressures facing the Egyptian state. No one, however, is offering an easy fix for Egypt's millennia-old economic and geographic challenges." (STRATFOR)


"Imagine it’s 1998, and a hoity-toity culture snob trips and falls into a vat of liquid nitrogen. Upon being thawed out 15 years later, he immediately seeks out the nearest cocktail party, where he commences on his usual monologue about the artistic garbage dump that is television. Expecting vigorous nods, our hypothetical unfrozen snob is surprised to look around and see nothing but puzzled stares. That’s how much the TV landscape has changed in the years since 'The Sopranos' arrived on HBO in 1999. Nowadays, conventional wisdom has it that the richest, most challenging and rewarding storytelling is taking place not in cinemas or even in novels but on television — specifically, on hour-long cable dramas like 'Breaking Bad,' 'Mad Men' and 'Boardwalk Empire.'
While there’ve been notable exceptions, for the most part this cultural shift has taken place with men on both sides of the camera. Those iconic male characters — Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White et al — and the showrunners who created them are the subject of 'Difficult Men,' a new book by GQ correspondent Brett Martin. From his home in New Orleans, Martin recently spoke to me about what he calls 'the third golden age of television' and where he thinks we’re headed next." (Jeff Bercovici)


"'LIKE other observers of the scene, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by how public the rich have gone during the last seven years. With their full cooperation, we know almost everything there is to know about them: their net worth, their incomes, how much they pay for their apartments, how much their wives pay for their dresses, how much their decorators charge them for the curtains on their windows, how much their parties cost, how much their florists charge for a bouquet of widely-open roses. The days of the quiet rich seem to have vanished.' This is the late Dominick Dunne writing to me back in 1988. I HAVE been working on my considerable papers, which cover 60 years of various this and that. These are all going to the Dolph Briscoe Center at the University of Texas. Mine will be in good company as the U of T has also the fabled papers of George M. Cohan, David O. Selznick, Robert De Niro, Woodward and Bernstein, Norman Mailer, Ann Richards, Gloria Swanson, to name just a few. And, I believe I’ll be joining my old friend Dominick there also. So, as I go along, trying just to re-read some of the old mail, I thought you might enjoy being reminded of Dominick. HE WROTE me the opening quote when he was defending himself from what he called 'the Mortimer’s Crowd' back in the '80s. He was bringing out a book titled 'People Like Us' and sent me the galleys. Dominick: “What has been passed around over the last several weeks to Women’s Wear Daily and some individuals, was surreptitiously obtained, or purloined and not a galley, as WWD claimed they had. Mr. John Fairchild and Mr. Michael Cody printed what they printed while I was still writing the book. I decided not to reply and get drawn into a fray until the book came out. Here is the actual book. 'It is in this arena — how the rich really live — that I have placed the action. It wasn’t my intent to write revealing secrets of real people, and I don’t think I have done that. Although that is what the speculation says. This is a book dealing with behavior.'" (Liz Smith/NYSocialDiary)


"Three days before John F. Kennedy’s inauguration Look magazine had published an article by Fletcher Knebel titled 'What You Don’t Know About Kennedy.' It portrayed the president-elect as appealingly human and forbiddingly smart, as well as a notorious moocher who seldom carried cash. Readers also learned that he seldom exploded in anger, was repelled by anything 'corny,' demanded privacy, possessed 'not a sliver of snobbishness,' could be 'thin-skinned,' and used profanity 'with the unconcern of a sailor.' As for his marriage, 'a friend describes the life of the President-elect and his wife as rather like an iceberg,' Knebel wrote, 'one part fully exposed to public view and most of it quietly submerged.” He did not reveal that the 'friend' was Jacqueline Kennedy, or that she had referred to two icebergs in a letter to him, writing, 'I would describe Jack as rather like me in that his life is an iceberg. The public life is above the water—& the private life—is submerged . . .' It was an arresting metaphor. Knebel had tinkered with her words to make them more compatible with the article’s light-hearted tone. His most telling change was to turn her twin icebergs into a shared one. Two icebergs implied that their submerged lives remained separate and mysterious, even to each other, which was probably what Jackie had meant by her comment that, 'I’d say Jack didn’t want to reveal himself at all.' She struck others as equally unfathomable. Her secretary Mary Gallagher described Jackie’s life in the White House as 'strangely remote,' and claimed she had no really close female friends. Norman Mailer detected 'something quite remote in her . . . distant, detached as the psychologists say, moody and abstracted the novelists used to say.' Once, while Jackie sat silently during one of the countless Kennedy family celebrations in Hyannis Port, her husband had said, 'A penny for your thoughts,' only to have her tell him, 'If I told them to you, they wouldn’t be mine, would they, Jack?' During a campaign trip to Oregon in 1960, Jacques Lowe had taken a photograph that captured the couple’s iceberg-like isolation. It resembled Nighthawks, Edward Hopper’s painting of a man and a woman sitting in a nearly empty urban diner, eyes averted, silent, bored, and alone. In Lowe’s photograph they are sitting side by side in the corner booth of a diner. She is holding a mug of coffee to her mouth and looking down at a magazine. He is resting his elbows on the table, has clasped his hands together in front of his mouth, and is staring across the table at his brother-in-law Stephen Smith, whose back is to the camera. Sunlight streams through some venetian blinds, throwing stripes of sun and shadow across his face. The perfect caption would have been the observation of Kennedy’s friend Chuck Spalding that Jack and Jackie were “the two most isolated, most alone people I ever met.” It is a horrible irony of their marriage that, a little more than three months before his death, a family tragedy would dissolve some of that isolation and bring them closer together, perhaps, than they had ever been." (VanityFair)

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