Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scrambling American Stereotypes

Mitt Romney is liked but not well-liked. Herman Cain could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.

Images from post-World War II theater arise as “Death of a Salesman” meets “The Music Man” in a 21st century culture clash that defies rational explanation.

Like “Dr.” Harold Hill, who sold band instruments and uniforms without knowing how to read music, Cain is dazzling even stubborn Iowans with his 9-9-9 version of “76 Trombones.”

Alongside him, “inevitable candidate” Romney is looking like Willie Loman dragging sample cases through the territories, hoping his faith in a shoeshine and a smile will see him through.

What we have here is a weird political fever dream that scrambles American stereotypes into a new kind of stew.

Romney keeps telling voters about the good old ways of doing business while Cain, whose chief economic adviser turns out to be a small-town Wells Fargo stockbroker, just keeps smiling and tap-dancing toward an office that would put his finger on the nuclear button.

Meanwhile offstage Barack Obama is gearing up and rehearsing for his repeat performance, hoping to remind audiences that how the hills were alive with “The Sound of Music” only three years ago.

How will all this song-and-dance end?

Update: Like the old Broadway shows, opening night performances are stacked with friends, backers and supporters to laugh and cheer, but the debates have gone them a step further by keeping critics out of the seats completely to watch on TV.

We learn now that “the press often remembers the debates less by what was said, and more by where they were put and what they were fed.”

No business like show business.

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