Hail to the Sweathog!


Good morning, class! It’s Election Day across the land, and as many of us venture out to cast our vote in the mid-term elections, I thought I’d use today’s blog to take a step back from the seriousness of it all and discuss the time a Sweathog ran for President of the United States.  And won.

I’m referring to Mike Nichols’ wink-and-a smile adaptation of Joe Klein’s *ahem* fictionalized account of the Clinton presidential campaign, “Primary Colors” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119942/?ref_=ttqt_qt_tt).  In the film, John “Vinnie Barbarino” Travolta steps into the shoes of Jack Stanton, a silver-haired, silver-tongued Arkansas Governor with presidential aspirations, a twinkle in his eye, an engaging handshake that can be interpreted like a foreign language, and a raspy Southern drawl that would charm the socks of his constituency (as well as a few panties). The always inimitable Emma Thompson plays Jack’s wife, Susan, power-suited, sensibly-coiffed and with just as much, if not more, driving ambition to see her husband ascend the political throne.  Kathy Bates and Billy Bob Thornton turn in powerful and hilarious supporting performances as a close friend called in to investigate any allegations that could pose a threat to the campaign, and a Carville-esque strategist, respectively.

The spectacle of it all is witnessed through the eyes of Henry Burton (Adrian Lester, who does a bang-up job of concealing his native British accent), an idealistic recruit whose grandfather was a civil rights leader admired by all in Stanton’s stable. Rather unwittingly pulled into the middle of the 3-ring circus, Henry finds himself mesmerized by Stanton the man and his seemingly authentic interest in the voters he hopes to sway.  In perhaps my favorite scene of the movie, Henry’s growing conviction in Stanton’s sincerity is played out to great effect when he finds the weary Governor as the sole, late-night patron of a Krispy Kreme.  Having escaped the fray of his campaign, Stanton is enjoying a cup of coffee and congenial conversation about life and football with Danny, a counter clerk with an enthusiasm for the apple fritters he churns out.  After the clerk disappears to fix a fresh pot of coffee, Stanton laments to Henry the self-inflicted, scandal-ridden state of his campaign, but then is quickly reminded of what it is – or should be – all about:  people like Danny, who struggle through most of their lives to work hard at low-income jobs, without the benefit of insurance, yet nary uttering a peep of complaint.  As Stanton proclaims, “If you let a man like that go down, you don’t deserve to take up space on this planet.”  It’s inspiring enough to make you want to believe that there are politicians in this world who are still in possession of their souls.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, “Primary Colors” can be enjoyed by all.  By turns amusing, touching, scathing and even heartbreaking, it is a fascinating and entertaining glimpse inside a memorable campaign (in fact, Bill Clinton liked the movie so much that he actually invited John Travolta to a party at The White House, but only if Travolta arrived in character as Jack Stanton. Travolta declined the invitation).

So, get out, exercise your right to vote, get your sticker, then indulge in a little election-night fun and check out “Primary Colors” (http://www.amazon.com/Primary-Colors-John-Travolta/dp/B002A9THFS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415113086&sr=8-1&keywords=primary+colors).

Mr. Kotter would be so proud.


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