From the Wilshire & Washington blog today, in a piece about a fundraiser for Senator Clinton at the Hollywood Hills home of Roland Emmerich held last Friday evening:
"When it came time for a Q&A, Clinton called on a girl in the seventh grade, who asked her about breaking through glass ceilings. She then answered more questions, including one about health care, before calling on one man who suggested that her answers were a bit too scripted. Some donors booed the man. Looking a little miffed, Clinton responded to the so-called 'authenticity question.' I don't have the direct quote, but Clinton apparently pointed to the fact that she has been giving many speeches a day --- why doesn't he try doing that? And she drew cheers when she ended the response with, 'And that wasn't a canned answer.'"
I am the man who suggested that the senator's answer to a single question felt -- well, sorry -- a little bit like a set-up. In retrospect, I was not particularly polite, though I didn't set out to be rude, and did preface my inquiry with a declaration of hope that she becomes the next president, which I repeated even through the smattering of boos and gasps that were directed my way. (Maybe in Manhattan, the response would have been different.) And moreover, I had been pleasantly surprised and impressed by Ms. Clinton's discourse until the moment described above. She spoke about the things I care most about - health care, children's welfare, and our credibility with the rest of the world. She talked intelligently on Iraq. She talked of sexual equality, which needed to be addressed in a heavily gay crowd. She was inspiring on a number of points, and felt human and empathetic even. So, when she called on the charming young lady in the pretty dress to her left, and it all turned into rote, I sighed, deflated, and looked around, and saw a few people rolling their eyes at the obviousness of the moment, and I quietly got angrier than anyone else gathered beside the gorgeous Hollywood pool.
I love Hollywood pools as the settings for political events. The Bullworth irony, and the complex air of ambivalence create a nice tonal backdrop to the earnest hopefulness. There is a lot of shop-talk, an army of Priuses (Prii?), very good wine, and the endless handicapping of people's latest projects. There are also people who have fervent hopes for the future of the country. People committed to change, and who put their money where their mouths are and work hard. I didn't go there to bum them all out, believe me.
Anyway, my question was spiked away easily by the candidate. I had set up a volleyball serve and she'd spiked it back hard and glib. I did her more good than the lovely young girl with the glass ceiling thing. People applauded her and glared at me. The young lady in charge of the mike hissed at me, and a couple I knew accused me of being cynical AND naive at the same time. (True, that.) And that ultimately I had been the only one there who had a problem with the thing. (Also, true, sadly.) We parted, probably not so much friends no more.
I left feeling blue, shaken, and slightly unhinged. It's not fun to have people look at you like you're a slightly better dressed, Martin-Margiella-clad potential Sirhan-Sirhan, believe me. People I knew were embarrassed for me (backed away, some of them good friends -- "thanks, folks"...) This except for one person, God bless him, one of the hosts of the event, who could not have been more good humored and gracious, or a better friend -- he told me that what he liked about me was that I treated everyone the same. I think that's a compliment. But what is one to do? Hillary was a pro, cautious, hard core, and clean-edged. At the point where I felt gypped for a moment by her, at the moment when I felt let down (again!), something snapped. And when I bemoaned it, more out of worry -- if you're fake here, where the hell will you be real? -- she bristled at me. And when her answer to my criticism was merely, "You try delivering twelve of these a week," I knew that she bristled simply because she knows how vulnerable she is when it comes to being over-rehearsed. Because she knows that there has been a kind of life-long coarsening that we all write off as collateral damage to being in the business of elections for as long as she has. I wanted to say, "your answer wasn't canned but it sure wasn't honest"... But by then, the microphone was already being wrenched away from me by a fleshy, sunburnt functionary of the night, which prevented me from really losing my cool and saying, "Lady, that's the gig, that's the gig, I don't care how HARD it is -- and if you can't give a consistent, spontaneous, genuine answer to someone who is essentially on your side, than how are you gonna wow them where they're not inclined to give you the time of day...?" But my moment of irrational pique ended, and the event righted itself and came to an end.
Anyway, long story short - For the first part of my creative life, twenty years, I was a playwright in New York, and now for a while at least, I make TV in LA. I worry about stuff out here in the moneyed, sun-drenched, smog-burned capitol of infotainment; I worry about glibness and one-issue voters with bucks and platforms, and the disconnect between here and the rest of the country, and I worry about how complicit I am. I was rude. But I was looking for the authentic, the real, and the righteous. And all I saw was the peeved. I gave as much money as I could to the thing. I suppose if this election plays out the way I think it may, she could get my vote. But I don't think she'll ever make my heart sing. Is such a thing even possible now?