Alter-egos – the Fantasy World of Politicians

Everyone following politics today should be required to read James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, a delightful look into the imaginary world of an otherwise ordinary guy. In his daydreams, he was sometimes an ace pilot, a world-renown surgeon, or a sure-shot marksman.

Into this “Barnum and Bailey world, just as phony as it could be” enter Senator Cory Booker, an ambitious man, a forceful speaker, yet a delusional heavyweight who, in the Twilight Zone of his own mind, sees himself as Spartacus. Spartacus, a rebel leader who led an army of slaves against the great Roman military. Spartacus, a valiant hero who died in battle. Now here’s Booker who, by releasing already released classified documents, sees himself in the same realm of martyrdom. His self-indulgence is baffling. I suggest he might be more in line with another lesser known Roman slave -Erroneous.

A short while later, in the Oval Office, Kanye West puts on a Make America Great cap and envisions himself as Superman. No doubt, everyone in the room must have thought, “What was he smoking?’ Somehow his popularity and success in the music industry elevated his ego into an unreal stratosphere. Kanye, you write rap songs! It’s not that hard. You merely make words rhyme. Dr Seuss did it best!

Of course, not every prominent dignitary has blurted out their alter-ego. Some keep them secreted away in the recesses of their minds; some need a little guidance in such self-discovery.

Donald Trump! In another life, could he have not been Julius Caesar? Caesar was criminally charged by the opposition Senate for waging unsanctioned wars. Trump is being charged by his opposition party for anything they can think of. Caesar’s populist and authoritarian views angered the elites who conspired against him. Trump too faces daily defections and rebellion within his own ranks. Don’t be surprised to one day hear, “Et tu Melania?”

Elizabeth Warren has gained notoriety as Senator from Massachusetts. Trump sarcastically refers to her as Pocahontas referencing the fact that she claims to be part Native American. To support this theory, she noted that her grandfather had high cheekbones. Can you imagine introducing this evidence in a court of law? “Your honor, my client was only following tribal tradition when he scalped those people. He has high cheekbones.” The real Pocahontas should not be so muddied about. Sen. Warren might better be likened to Wonder Woman since it is an absolute wonder that she thinks she can pull this off.

Finding the fictional counterpart to Bernie Sanders can be taxing. So often he himself seems to be fictional. But there is an uncanny similarity between his vocal tone, his erratic cadence, and his wild disheveled appearance to that of Reverend Jim “Iggy” Ignatowski on the reruns of “Taxi”. Iggy’s spaced out behavior was the result of extensive drug use in the ‘60s. Not to imply that Bernie’s character was shaped by the same experience, but he is a strong advocate for legalized marijuana. Just sayin’.

The Walter Mitty Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Richard Blumenthal, the honorable senator from Connecticut. Blumie believes he saw combat with the Marines in Vietnam. Truth was that, after five deferments, the closest he ever got to ‘Nam was with the Marine Reserves in Washington D.C. in a unit that organized drives for Toys for Tots. If he saw himself co-piloting a bombing raid on Tokyo with Jimmy Doolittle, it wouldn’t have been more of a stretch. But that’s the beauty of daydreams.

Alice in Wonderland dispenses a fascinating cast of counterparts for our modern statesman/woman. Now that Hillary Clinton has taken to the pulpit to decry civility and in effect condone mob rule, she falls right in line with the Queen of Hearts. “Off with their heads!” There is no place for disagreement. Fortunately the King of Hearts, a sympathetic emasculated character (wonder who that could be), followed behind negating her orders

Then we have the Cheshire Cat, known for his distinctive grin. Sometimes the cat vanishes and all that’s left is his grin. Then he magically re-appears as Phil Murphy, NJ’s toothy Governor. In acting classes, budding actors are taught how to and how not to “mug”, a term for facial exaggerations to convey emotions. Raise your eyebrows for surprise. Furrow them in deep thought. Wide eyes and open mouth for horror. And a big gaping ingenuous smile for “Believe me; it’s the right thing to do”. When it comes to facial animation, Gov. Phil gets my vote.

No discussion of political headliners would be complete if we didn’t include Bob Menendez. There’s an interesting symmetry between the Senator and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. Jay Gatsby also came from poverty, vaulted to great prominence and fell victim to the corruption that wealth causes. They both were lured into the decadence of lavish parties, spectacular beauty, and exotic lifestyles. Menendez, unlike Gatsby, lived out these fantasies by sponging off his malevolent benefactor, Dr Melgen. Which might give rise to another heartwarming character – “Spongebob”.

Originally published in the Asbury Park Press on Oct. 18, 2018.

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