Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cattle Call

Scene: A darkened theatre.  On stage is a ghost light.  In the wings is a motley collection of hopefuls.  Out in the house, unseen, is a collection of producers and sycophants.

Suddenly a stern voice comes out of the dark: “Next!”  An actor strides out on stage doing his best to mask his anxiety.  He clutches a script, the pages already rumpled with the sweat and tears of previous actors vying for the role.  He stands next to the light.  The stern voice says, “Name!”

“Uh, Jeb Bush.”


The actor clears his throat:  “My fellow Americans…”

“Thank you!  Next!”


One of the many reasons I’m not a professional actor is that I like having a steady paycheck and not having to worry about going to auditions along with every other actor in town for a part and having to prove to some collection of producers and casting agents that I have what they’re looking for.

But that’s part of the deal of being in the business, and even well-known actors with stellar resumes have to start from scratch for every job; very few of them get to walk on stage without having to run the gauntlet of auditions with every other next star wannabe.

That applies to presidential candidates, too, but this time around it’s not the voters they’re trying to impress with their talents.  It’s the producers.

Yesterday, Nicholas Confessore reported that David Koch, the extremely influential Republican donor, told other Republican donors that he and his brother Charles would support Scott Walker for the Republican nomination. The Kochs’ support in a Republican primary is potentially transformative, because they are known to write powerfully argued op-eds and deliver compelling speeches that marshal unimpeachable logic on behalf of their ideals. But the comment, which was not intended for public consumption, was quickly disputed by the Kochs, who don’t want to forfeit their chance to make other candidates compete for their blessing. “Let me be clear, I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time,” Mr. Koch declared for the record.

The Koch damage control continues this morning, in the form of a Mike Allen report that, per an unnamed “top Koch aide,” the brothers remain uncommitted. Indeed, reports Allen, “Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support.” The Kochs seem to be hoping for a lead character who can play the role a little less patrician and a little more Middle America, but Jeb will be given an opportunity to show that he can stretch. So for anybody concerned that the democratic process might be short-circuited by the Kochs precipitously anointing a front man, rest assured. All the candidates will have the chance to curry their favor.

There are no small parts, just small actors.