Monday, March 9, 2009

Quotes of the Day (Barack Obama and Humphrey Bogart, on Being a Sap)

"You know, I am an eternal optimist. That doesn't mean I'm a sap."—President Barack Obama, on whether he’d be willing to reach out to Republicans again after their party-line vote to oppose his stimulus package, quoted by syndicated columnist Clarence Page

"I don't care who loves who. I won't play the sap for you! You killed Miles and you're going over for it.”—Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) to Brigid O’Shaughnessy (played by Mary Astor), in The Maltese Falcon, written and directed by John Huston, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett (1941)

Our President has this whole cool thing down, all right, but just this once I think he can lay it aside and study his source a little more closely. As you can see from his recent comments, he’s diverged from his original inspiration, Abraham Lincoln, to borrow a script from Bogie.

But since the Civil War era lacked the modern inventions of motion pictures and the phonograph, we’re free to imagine how the Great Emancipator looked and sounded. Such is not the case for Humphrey Bogart, possessed of one of the most distinctive—even much-imitated—voices in the history of cinema.

For his next faceoff with Congress, I suggest that the President go back to the climactic scene of The Maltese Falcon and practice relentlessly the tone that Bogie got so perfectly: that sense of vehement resolution when private eye Spade assured his faithless lover, the murderess Brigid, that for breaking his code—i.e., her killing of his partner, Miles Archer—she had to accept the consequences. That same tone is going to be essential the next time Obama gets in a staredown contest with the Republicans.

Well, even though he could have done better, the President at least got the right script this time. Imagine if he’d chosen a different one. You know—the one from Play It Again, Sam, where Woody Allen’s Bogie advises his hero-worshipping, film-critic fan about how to play the love game: “Tell her she moves something in you that you can’t control.”

Imagine how that would go over with Mitch McConnell!

(Thanks to Brian for the suggestion.)

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