Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bullwinkle Factor

Let us consider Bullwinkle.  Here we have a big, silly cartoon moose who somehow managed to become a national star with his own television show. On this show he was endlessly beset by the forces of nature, his own stupidity, and the nefarious plotting of Boris and Natasha Badanov, yet in the end he always triumphed--but only by the intervention of his long-suffering friend, Rocket J. Squirrel, affectionately known as Rocky.  In their adventures, Bullwinkle constantly ignores Rocky's excellent advice and so constantly finds himself in peril, but Rocky always comes to the rescue to make Bullwinkle a hero once again.

Now let us consider the Presidency of the United States.  Here we have men who have managed to get themselves elected against long odds to become the leader of a large and important nation.  Once a man is President he will have many battles to fight, some of his own choosing, and some over which he has little or no control.  In fighting these battles he will have allies and enemies. His enemies naturally will try to defeat him, his allies will try to help him, and his success as President will frequently depend on how well he has chosen who his allies will be.

I believe we can think of the President as a sort of real-life Bullwinkle.  He is but one man, with limited intelligence, ability, and insight, and he can't possibly meet the challenges of his office alone.  He will need people who can help him when he finds himself in crisis--in short, he is going to need his own real-life Rocket J. Squirrel to come to the rescue and let the President look once again like a hero, or at least in reasonable control.

If we look back as far as President Eisenhower, we see that he had at least one Rocky in the person of John Foster Dulles, as well as a host of war-hardened leaders on whom he could call for advice.  John F. Kennedy had a number of flying squirrels, including Robert McNamara and his feisty brother Bobby.  Lyndon Johnson as I see it was an unfortunate blend of both Bullwinkle and Rocky, a man who had done the work to make others look good when he was in Congress, but who in the end found his presidency in such deep crisis that no one could save him.

Richard Nixon had an able if unpalatable Henry Kissinger for his Rocky, but not even Kissinger could safely steer Nixon's hall-of-mirrors character past the scandals that eventually brought his Presidency down.  I don't think Gerald Ford was around long enough to grow antlers, and as for Jimmy Carter, well, even Rocky couldn't keep the Bullwinkle show from being cancelled.

I think Reagan is the President who most successfully fulfills the Bullwinkle ideal.  Try as they might, his enemies were unable to bring him down, however much they despised him.  

GHW Bush had Colin Powell at his side, but he also had Dan Quayle. Clinton had a group of not-nice Rockies, such as James Carville, and even managed for a time to make Newt Gingrich into an unwitting fifth-column flying squirrel.  GW Bush of course had Karl Rove and Dick Cheney helping him through much turbulence.

That brings us to President Obama, clearly a natural-born Bullwinkle if ever there was one.  Where is his Rocky?  Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid? I don't think so. Rahm Emmanuel and most of the economic "heavy hitters" team have flown the coup. Eric Holder will be lucky if he doesn't end up on some docket himself.  Hillary is a veritable Natasha Badanov, biding her time in plots only she and Bill can know. Michelle apparently is no longer allowed to publicly say what she really thinks, which is probably a point in Obama's favor, if unintentionally.

All in all, I think Obama's in trouble.  At this point, his motto might as well be: "Nothing up my sleeve!"

1 comment:

  1. I think you could develop this to include the Mr Peabody & Sherman axis too...